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Travellers to Canada will soon need negative COVID-19 test before boarding – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Anyone arriving in Canada starting Jan. 7 will need to have a negative COVID-19 test before boarding a flight, the federal government said Thursday as the Liberals urged vacationers abroad to prepare.

Flyers aged five and up will need have a negative PCR test within 72 hours of their scheduled departure and must show the results to their airline before they board their flight.

Travellers who receive a negative test result must still complete the mandatory 14-day quarantine upon their arrival in Canada.

Either before or upon arrival, travellers will have to provide a quarantine plan for federal officials to review. If officials aren’t satisfied, the government said people will be required to quarantine in a federal facility.

The statement that came hours before the start of 2021 said Canadians vacationing abroad should immediately start arranging for a COVID-19 test to avoid delays in coming home.

The details arrived one day after cabinet ministers decided that Canada would join other countries in making a negative PCR test a travel requirement. A PCR test is designed to detect minute amounts of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, usually through a swab up the nose or in the mouth.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau had been in contact with airlines on Wednesday as the high-level details rolled out. On Thursday, the government said the Jan. 7 start date was designed to provide airlines with enough time to comply with the new rules.

The National Airlines Council of Canada, which represents the country’s largest airlines, warned of major issues in Ottawa’s plans, including what options passengers have if their jurisdiction does not offer the kind of test the government accepts.

A trio of Opposition Conservatives critics said in statement that the Liberals were effectively making international airline workers with no ties to Canada act as screening agents, and causing more instability for Canadian airlines.

Health critic Michelle Rempel Garner, transport critic Stephanie Kusie and public services critic Pierre Paul-Hus also raised concerns about possible lags in getting test results and the ability of airline agents to prevent or recognize fraudulent test certificates.

“Choosing to use unverifiable test certificates issued abroad, as opposed to post-arrival screening conducted by Canadian authorities, is populist policy designed to quell new headlines and put airline workers out of a job, as opposed to delivering solid public health outcomes for Canadians,” part of their statement said.

The new federal testing requirement will only apply for air travellers, but Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet argued it should apply at all ports of entry. He also said the government should make sure that thousands of Canadians are reimbursed for travel plans that have been interrupted or cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions.

It is essential that Canadians also understand that personal sacrifices are key to helping end the pandemic, Blanchet said in a statement.

Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said in a statement she was concerned some Canadians are still travelling for non-essential reasons despite advice to avoid doing so.

“I am asking Canadians to reassess any travel plans,” she said.

Some haven’t, including politicians who now find themselves in hot water.

Among them is Rod Phillips, who resigned as Ontario’s finance minister shortly after returning home Thursday morning from a two-week Caribbean vacation amid a provincewide lockdown.

In a video posted late Wednesday, Rempel Garner called Phillips’ decision dumb. Phillips used the same word hours later when he landed at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.

Rempel Garner’s husband is in Oklahoma. In the video she talked about not being able to see him or her mother-in-law who has cancer, noting at one point, “Thanks, Rod. I don’t get to see my mother-in-law now because there’ll be a witch-hunt if I go see my family.”

In Saskatchewan, provincial Highways Minister Joe Hargrave apologized for travelling to Palm Springs, Calif., with his wife over the holidays. Although he called it an “essential” trip because he was selling a home there, Hargrave said it was a mistake to travel while so many others are making sacrifices during the pandemic.

As the clock ticked down on a year marked by the pandemic, case numbers continued to rise.

Ontario reported 3,328 new cases, a daily record, and 56 more deaths linked to the virus, matching the highest death toll from the first wave. Quebec also set a daily record with 2,819 new cases and 62 deaths.

Tam said several people have tested positive in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec with the novel coronavirus variant identified in the U.K.

She expected that other variants of concern will likely be found in Canada as monitoring continues.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 31, 2020.

— With files from Jon Victor in Montreal

——

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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Trudeau nominates first judge of colour to sit on Supreme Court

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday made history by nominating the first judge of color to sit on the country’s Supreme Court, which has only ever had white justices in its 146-year existence.

Mahmud Jamal, who has been a judge on Ontario‘s court of appeal since 2019, trained as a lawyer and appeared before the Supreme Court in 35 appeals addressing a range of civil, constitutional, criminal and regulatory issues.

“He’ll be a valuable asset to the Supreme Court – and that’s why, today, I’m announcing his historic nomination to our country’s highest court,” Trudeau said on Twitter.

Trudeau has frequently said there is a need to address systemic racism in Canada.

Jamal, born in Nairobi in 1967, emigrated with his family to Britain in 1969 where he said he was “taunted and harassed because of my name, religion, or the color of my skin.”

In 1981 the family moved to Canada, where his “experiences exposed me to some of the challenges and aspirations of immigrants, religious minorities, and racialized persons,” he said in a document submitted to support his candidacy.

Canada is a multicultural country, with more than 22% of the population comprised of minorities and another 5% aboriginal, according to the latest census.

“We know people are facing systemic discrimination, unconscious bias and anti-black racism every single day,” Trudeau said last year.

Jamal will replace Justice Rosalie Abella, who is due to retire from the nine-person court on July 1.

 

(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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Donors pledge $1.5 billion for Venezuelan migrants, humanitarian crisis

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More than 30 countries and two development banks on Thursday pledged more than $1.5 billion in grants and loans to aid Venezuelan migrants fleeing a humanitarian crisis, as well as their host countries and vulnerable people still in the country.

The $954 million in grants announced at a donors’ conference hosted by Canada – which included pledges of $407 million from the United States and C$115 million Canadian dollars ($93.12 million) from Canada – exceeded the $653 million announced at a similar event last year.

But that fell short of the needs of countries hosting the more than 5.6 million Venezuelans who have left their country since 2015, as the once-prosperous nation’s economy collapsed into a years-long hyperinflationary recession under socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

Most have resettled in developing countries in Latin America and the Caribbean who have themselves seen their budgets stretched thin due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Does this cover all needs? Of course not,” Filippo Grandi, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters. “We will have to continue to encourage donors to support the response.”

At the conference, Ecuadorean President Guillermo Lasso announced that the country – which hosts some 430,000 Venezuelans – would begin a new process to regularize migrants’ status. That came after Colombia in February gave 10-year protected status to the 1.8 million Venezuelans it hosts.

Karina Gould, Canada‘s minister for international development, said the amount pledged showed donors were eager to support such efforts.

“There is that recognition on behalf of the global community that there needs to be support to ensure that that generosity can continue, and can actually deepen, in host countries,” Gould said.

In addition, the World Bank and Inter-American Developmemt Bank pledged $600 million in loans to address the crisis, Gould said.

($1 = 1.2349 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Luc Cohen, Michelle Nichols and David Ljunggren; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Aurora Ellis)

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Ecuador to start new ‘normalization process’ for Venezuelan migrants

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Ecuador will implement a new “normalization process” for the 430,000 Venezuelan migrants living in the South American country, President Guillermo Lasso said on Thursday, without providing further details of the plan.

Lasso’s announcement, at a conference hosted by Canada intended to raise money to support the more than 5.6 million Venezuelans who have fled an economic crisis in the South American country, came after Colombia in February gave 10-year protected status to the nearly 2 million Venezuelans it hosts.

“I am pleased to announce the beginning of a new regularization process, which in order to be an effective, lasting and permanent policy should be complemented by strategies for economic integration and labor market access,” Lasso said.

Ecuador in late 2019 launched a regularization process for Venezuelans who arrived before July of that year. That included two-year humanitarian visas meant to facilitate access to social services.

Lasso said Ecuador needed outside funding to continue caring for Venezuelan migrants, estimating that more than 100,000 additional migrants were expected to arrive before the end of the year.

“I call on our partners in the international community to be co-responsible and have solidarity with Venezuelan migrants and refugees, and with the countries that receive them,” he said.

 

(Reporting by Luc Cohen; editing by Barbara Lewis)

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