Summer Travelling for Canadians…it’s a Complicated Matter

By: Gillian Davis

Published on: 2022-04-02

Summer Travel For Canadians? Not So Fast

Summer is coming and many people are thinking about their vacation, but can you travel within or outside of Canada this year?  The answer is a little more complicated than you might think.  As other countries remove their entry and exit mandates, Canada has only loosened theirs…a little. 

Vaccination Status Matters

If you are “fully vaccinated” your options are far more open than for those who are not. 

Air and rail

In addition to the vaccination requirement, all existing mandatory pre-boarding and health requirements for passengers remain in place. This includes health check questions, and wearing masks inside airports and rail terminals, and while on board planes and trains.

All passengers must wear a mask throughout their entire trip unless otherwise exempt.  Some exemptions include; children under 6 years old, people who are unable to remove their masks without assistance, and people who provide a medical certificate verifying they are unable to wear a mask.

Cruise ships

Before boarding a cruise ship, you must take either:

  • a COVID-19 molecular test within 72 hours of their scheduled boarding time, or
  • an antigen test taken no more than 1 day before the scheduled departure

Passengers also have obligations during a voyage and when leaving the cruise ship in Canada. During your voyage, you must self-monitor for symptoms and report any symptoms to cruise line officials. After you leave the cruise ship on your return to Canada, you must monitor for symptoms for 14 days, and report through ArriveCAN or 1-833-641-0343.

Before returning to shore and getting off the cruise ship, you must take 1 of the following:

  • a COVID-19 molecular test within 72-hours before arrival, or
  • an antigen test within 1 day of arrival

You must monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days.

Travelling to another province, territory or country

You’ll need to check if there are any restrictions that apply at your final destination.

Your proof of vaccination doesn’t guarantee you entry to another country. Before you travel, you must check the rules of your destination country and the countries you transit through:

Passengers with signs or symptoms

You won’t be allowed to board unless you present a medical certificate confirming that your symptoms aren’t related to COVID-19.

The Unvaccinated

Start planning your ‘staycation’ because you aren’t going anywhere your feet or your personal vehicle can’t take you.  I asked Transport Canada the following questions, and here are their answers:

Can someone who is not ‘fully vaccinated’ leave Canada? If so, how would they go about it?

Transport Canada’s priority is the safety and security of Canadians and our transportation system.

Travellers must be fully vaccinated to travel on a plane, train, or cruise ship domestically, or to board a plane for the purpose of departing Canada, unless they meet one of the few limited exceptions.

Foreign nationals who do not qualify as fully vaccinated and who don’t permanently reside in Canada continue to be allowed to depart Canada at this time. They must show proof of a valid COVID-19 test result at the time of boarding.

Travellers can apply to their carriers for exemptions for medical or religious grounds.

Please visit the Government of Canada’s Travel Web site for full details, at https://travel.gc.ca/travel-covid/travel-restrictions/domestic-travel#exceptions.

Is there any comment on the Brian Peckford case regarding the Charter and Freedom of Movement?

The Government of Canada’s position is that the vaccination mandate is consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as Canada’s obligations in the area of human rights. 

With restrictions being done away with in other countries, will Canada follow suit?

As it has done throughout the pandemic, the Government of Canada will continue to evaluate measures and will not hesitate to make adjustments based on the latest public health advice and science to keep Canadians and the transportation system safe and secure. 

How are these restrictions being enforced? Do the airlines/rail lines/cruise lines get fined if they don’t follow the rules or is it the individual?

Existing authorities available to Transport Canada under the Aeronautics Act, the Railway Safety Act, and the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 are being used, as they have been throughout the pandemic, to ensure the safety and security of Canada’s transportation system.

In general, airlines, railways, and cruise lines are responsible for confirming the vaccination status of travellers, and the method may vary according to mode of transportation and size of operator. This includes commercial air traveller services (scheduled or charter flights), VIA Rail, Rocky Mountaineer, and AMTRAK trains, and cruise ships.

Transport Canada oversees compliance by means of existing inspections and enforcement tools for each mode, including Administrative Monetary Penalties (fines). 

Travellers are responsible for confirming their vaccination status (or having a valid COVID-19 molecular test) as well as carrying proof with them throughout their journey. 

For persons who falsify information, there will be serious consequences. Creating documents in a way to be false or misleading is a serious offence and may constitute fraud and be subject to prosecution under the Criminal Code.

  • In the air sector, individuals—either travellers or employees—could be fined up to $5,000 per violation under the Aeronautics Act, and operators could be fined up to $25,000 per violation;
  • Railway companies could be subjected to compliance actions up to $250,000 per violation, per day, under the Railway Safety Act;
  • In the marine sector, employees could be fined for being non-compliant with the obligation to provide proof of vaccination up to $250,000 per violation, per day, and operators could be fined up to $250,000 per violation, per day, for non-compliance to the Interim Order made pursuant to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001.

How are exemptions being handled? Is it strictly the travel company that grants them or is their government oversight with this?

For domestic and outbound travel, operators (e.g. airlines, railways, etc.) administer the process for considering a traveller’s medical inability to be vaccinated, essential medical services and treatment,sincere religious belief, and emergency/urgent travel (including for urgent medical reasons). Travellers who think they may be eligible for one of these exemptions should contact their operator (e.g. airline) to obtain the necessary form and apply for the exemption in accordance with their carrier’s approval process.

In addition, operators administer, at the time of boarding, provisions that allow for certain groups of foreign nationals, persons transiting through Canada, new permanent residents, resettling refugees and those traveling to/from remote communities to travel under certain circumstances notwithstanding their vaccination status. This includes unvaccinated foreign nationals departing Canada for a foreign country.

It is also possible to apply for a National Interest Exemption to travel unvaccinated.

As part of the domestic National Interest Exemption Program, Transport Canada will administer case-by-case applications for exemptions from the vaccine mandate for exceptional travel in the national interest, such as to support critical infrastructure needs. 

Transport Canada does not consider applications for optional travel like: 

  • travelling to visit family;
  • attending weddings and funerals, or; 
  • seeing/caring for sick family members or; 
  • situations where an activity can be held virtually. 

Additional information on the exemptions to the vaccine mandate can be found on the Government of Canada’s Travel site, at https://travel.gc.ca/travel-covid/travel-restrictions/domestic-travel#exceptions.

So, there you have it!  If you are fully vaccinated there are still a lot of hoops you have to jump through.  If you are unvaccinated you are not permitted to travel by commercial means unless you can get an exemption.

What You Can Do:

1) Follow the Brian Peckford case and help support the JCCF

2) Contact Omar Alghabra and the Ministry of Transportation and let them know how you feel about the travel restrictions. Toll Free 1-866-995-9737 or email: questions@tc.gc.ca 

3) And, as always – support independent media, like Diverge Media, who bring you real information you can use to make-up your own mind.

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