New COVID Travel Rules Violate Canada’s Charter

By John Carpay
John Carpay
John Carpay
Lawyer John Carpay is president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (
February 22, 2021Updated: February 23, 2021


Democracies respect the right of citizens to leave and re-enter their own country freely; repressive regimes like China and North Korea do not. Hence Section 6 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects this right. Any restrictions on the right to leave and enter Canada, such as needing a passport, must be reasonable and minimal.

However, all Canadian citizens returning by air are now required to be locked up in a hotel for up to three nights at their own expense of as much as $2,000 per person, while they await the results of a COVID test they had to take upon arrival back in Canada. These requirements took effect on Feb. 22.

A middle-class couple and their two kids might get a deal on a one-week all-inclusive in Mexico for $8,000 or less. But now they will need to pay thousands more for the privilege of re-entering Canada and being imprisoned in a hotel for three days. Extra costs plus forcible confinement will likely eliminate 90 percent or more of international air travel. Thousands now suffer permanent unemployment: pilots, flight crew, and airport staff.

While requiring returning Canadians to pay $2,000 for their own forcible confinement, the federal government has not provided any empirical data or a reasonable explanation for why people with negative COVID tests cannot quarantine in their own homes. Nor has Ottawa explained why we must still live in fear today, when the initial predictions from March 2020 about COVID being an unusually deadly killer have been thoroughly discredited by government data and statistics. Nor has the government provided scientific evidence to support its belief that asymptomatic people are significant spreaders of the virus. Nor has the government explained what link, if any, might exist between international travel and deaths in long-term care homes, where roughly 80 percent of COVID deaths occur.

Apart from depriving Canadians of joy and employment, these new federal policies violate our Charter rights and freedoms on a massive scale.

A Canadian accused of murder has the Charter right not be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned, the right to retain and instruct counsel without delay, the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and the right to a fair trial before an independent and impartial court. Police can forcibly confine a Canadian only after arresting that citizen, and police can only arrest someone after charging them with having committed a crime. When police arrest someone, the person in custody must be brought before a judge or justice of the peace for a bail hearing within 24 hours. When accused persons are detained, their families and lawyers can find out where they are; they are not imprisoned in secret locations, as has happened in some cases as a result of pandemic-related travel measures.

Returning snowbirds and vacationers have none of the rights listed above. Many Canadians are now stranded abroad, terrified to come home.

Under Prime Minister Justine Trudeau’s new policies, nobody is charged with a crime, nobody is arrested, people are not told of their right to contact a lawyer, they are detained in secret locations, no one receives a fair trial, and no one is brought before a judge or justice of the peace within 24 hours of her or his detention.

Unfounded fear of a virus that has only a minimal impact on life expectancy (unlike the annual flu, which can kill young children) sustains the perverse belief that governments can do no wrong and cannot go too far if they merely possess the good intention of fighting COVID. In this context, Trudeau panders to voters who see no need for governments to provide evidence that Charter-violating policies are effective, or even necessary.

Like other Charter-violating lockdown policies imposed on Canadians since March 2020, placing Canadians who have committed no crime into solitary confinement will become part of the new normal, unless and until Canadians who cherish our free and democratic society object in sufficient numbers.

Lawyer John Carpay is president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (, which has filed a Charter application to the Federal Court to challenge the new government policies.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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