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Stopping the spread of COVID-19 is the only thing that really matters. Or is it?

Canada is now faced with both a tragedy and a crisis. The tragedy is caused by COVID, a respiratory virus. It has the potential to cause the deaths of tens of thousands of Canadians, overwhelmingly old and infirm.

The crisis is caused by our attempts to control that virus. The crisis has the potential to cause severe and lasting damage to the fabric of our country’s economy, education, social and cultural institutions, and mental health that will have repercussions for our public health for decades.

The tragedy is a natural disaster that saddens me and saddens us all. The crisis is a self-inflicted wound that frankly terrifies me. It offends social justice, because the burden of the crisis falls disproportionately on children, young families and blue-collar workers. The more we focus exclusively on COVID, the greater the danger to our public health.

Richard Schabas, Former Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario in testimony to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health receiving evidence concerning matters related to the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Let’s take a look at one crisis. It involves a retired couple, full-timing in their RV. They had been living together for the past 18 months. And they were residents of two different countries. The male is a Canadian and the female is an American.

They were somewhere in California when governments elected to shut down the Canada/U.S. border back in March. The couple knew that if they attempted to return to Canada that one of them would not be allowed to enter the country. They stayed in the States.

For the Canadian, time spent in the United States would soon become a problem but fortunately the Canadian government made this announcement in early June:

The Government of Canada remains committed to protecting the health and safety of Canadians and reducing the spread of COVID-19 in Canada. The Government recognizes however that the temporary border measures put in place to fight the spread of COVID-19, while necessary, have created challenges for some families.

The Government has therefore been looking at ways to keep families together and support unity while respecting the need for continued vigilance and border measures at this time.

The Canada Border Services Agency is announcing that as of June 8, 2020 23:59 EDT, foreign nationals who are immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents, and who do not have COVID-19 or exhibit any signs or symptoms of COVID-19, or who do not have reason to believe they have COVID-19, will be exempt from the prohibition on entry to Canada if entering to be with an immediate family member for a period of at least 15 days.

Foreign nationals who are admitted into Canada pursuant to this exemption must quarantine for 14 days.

An immediate family member refers to a person’s:

a) spouse or common-law partner;

b) dependent child, as defined in section 2 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, or a dependent child of the person’s spouse or common-law partner;

c) dependent child, as defined in section 2 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, of a dependent child referred to in paragraph (b):

d) parent or step-parent or the parent or step-parent of the person’s spouse or common-law partner;

e) guardian or tutor.

All foreign nationals who have COVID-19 or exhibit any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 continue to remain prohibited from entering Canada.

Perfect, they thought. We can return to Canada as a common-law couple without any concerns.

Not so perfect when they arrived at the border.

Turns out that they needed to prove they were a common-law couple by providing documents showing a common residence. Living together in an RV full-time does not count, at least not to the border agent they encountered.

He was now in Canada at that point and he was not allowed to re-enter the United States. She was not allowed to enter Canada. Their full-time home was their RV. The RV was not allowed to re-enter the United States.

She was left alone and homeless at the border. He had to take the RV and leave her behind. She ultimately found her way back to California to stay with friends.

Ironically he could book a flight to go see her. And perhaps they will get married in the States. With a marriage certificate in hand, they might have better luck returning to Canada.

But I doubt it. Marriage of convenience and all that.

Full story here.

1 reply
  1. Ken Hardesty
    Ken Hardesty says:

    Great story; very sad circumstances. On the surface it appears to me that a phone call to “the powers that be” at whichever embassy could have solved the problem. It’s a travesty that this couple had to suffer more than just the Covid-19 which is bad enough.


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