Skip to main content
A scary good deal on trusted journalism
Get full digital access to globeandmail.com
$0.99
per week for 24 weeks SAVE OVER $140
OFFER ENDS OCTOBER 31
A scary good deal on trusted journalism
$0.99
per week
for 24 weeks
SAVE OVER $140
OFFER ENDS OCTOBER 31
// //

A man makes his way through Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Dec. 14, 2020.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

The federal government defended its approach to securing Canada’s border against COVID-19 as Ontario Premier Doug Ford once again called for more testing at points of entry.

Canada’s border controls – and the 14-day quarantine requirement for returning travellers – are among the strictest in the world, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair told reporters Tuesday.

“Over the past few days, we’ve heard a number of comments which, frankly, are an unfortunate misrepresentation of what is actually happening at our borders,” Blair said.

Story continues below advertisement

“COVID-19 cases related to international travel currently account for only 1.8 per cent of all cases. That means 98.2 per cent of COVID transmissions are a result of community transmissions, not international travel.”

Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, Dr. Howard Njoo, said that while Ottawa is always evaluating it’s approach at the border, its main concern is transmission within Canada. “What we’re seeing now is that the biggest problem in Canada is community transmission inside Canada, it’s not really the importation of cases,” Njoo told reporters.

Blair and Njoo’s comments followed criticism from Premier Ford, who said Monday that Ottawa needed to do more to prevent travellers from bringing the novel coronavirus into the country.

Ford hit the federal government again on the issue Tuesday, telling reporters that Canada must require that travellers obtain a negative COVID-19 test before they arrive on Canadian soil – “something that countless other countries have required for months.”

“We’re letting tens of thousands of people into our country every week without the basic screening requirements,” Ford said, adding that screening on arrival is “the bare minimum.”

“Despite our repeated calls, we hear every week about dozens of flights coming in, unchecked, and bringing in COVID with them.”

Ford said that if the federal government doesn’t begin testing travellers on arrival, Ontario will – though he wouldn’t say when he planned to start. “I’ve directed our officials to begin preparing infrastructure necessary for testing at our airports and I hope we won’t have to go it alone, but we’re prepared to do that if we must,” he said.

Story continues below advertisement

On Tuesday afternoon, Ford’s Progressive Conservative Party sent an email to supporters asking them to sign an online petition calling on Ottawa to take stronger action on the border.

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu says that even if everyone was tested at the border, some cases could still get through. “If you don’t test people at the right time in their illness, in fact, the test can be negative,” she told reporters Tuesday. “That’s why we’ve maintained the 14-day quarantine with such a degree of rigour.”

However, 81 per cent of the 6.5 million travellers who arrived in Canada between March 31, 2020 and Nov. 12, 2020 were exempt from quarantine, the Canada Border Services Agency said Tuesday.

“The Canadian border remains closed to discretionary or optional travel, therefore the majority of individuals who have crossed the border are exempt travellers,” Rebecca Purdy, a senior spokesperson at the CBSA wrote in an email.

The majority of those exempt travellers were truckers, Blair said.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault told reporters Tuesday he wanted more information from the federal government about how it planned to enforce 14-day isolation rules for Canadians who return from holiday vacations outside the country.

Story continues below advertisement

Legault said he too hasn’t ruled out the possibility of deploying provincial authorities to test travellers on arrival.

Ford said he’s worried in part because of a new variant of COVID-19 discovered in the U.K. Canada suspended flights from that country for 72 hours at midnight on Dec. 21.

Canada is currently reviewing additional measures, Blair said, adding that “enhanced screening has been put in place at all Canadian airports and at all points of entry” to identify travellers who may be arriving from the U.K. indirectly.

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Tuesday the new variant has not yet been detected in Canada. She said, however, that “Canada remains on a trajectory for an even stronger resurgence (of COVID-19) over the next two months and this is a perilous time.”

Hajdu said that a second COVID-19 vaccine, from U.S. biotech firm Moderna, could be coming soon to Canada, if it is approved by federal regulators.

“Health Canada now has all the data required to make a decision; my understanding is that decision will be very soon,” Hajdu said. “I can’t speak for the regulators because obviously they are independent but they will have information for Canadians in the very near future.”

Story continues below advertisement

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

Sign up for the Coronavirus Update newsletter to read the day’s essential coronavirus news, features and explainers written by Globe reporters and editors.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies