6.1 Declaration of State of Emergency
Provinces and territories (PTs) across the country have declared states of emergency in response to COVID-19. For example, Quebec first declared a state of emergency on March 13, 2020 (Government of Quebec, 2020); British Columbia and Ontario first declared one on March 17 (British Columbia, 2020b; Ontario, 2020a). All of these PT declarations have similar terms that allows PTs to make purchases or conclude contracts to protect the health of the population and impose measures to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 (e.g. closing of public spaces).
While all PTs have declared states of emergency, a national state of emergency has not yet been declared. In March 2020, such a move was considered the “measure of last resort” (Tasker, 2020); however, in April, the federal government consulted with PTs as a first step toward invoking a national emergency under the Emergency Measures Act (formerly the War Measures Act) (Tunney, 2020b). A national state of emergency would grant the federal government increased powers, such as to use property, regulate the distribution of essential services and equipment and establish emergency hospitals among other things.
6.2 Advice to travellers
On January 25, 2020, Health Minister Patty Hajdu announced that Canada was taking border control measures to mitigate the risk of introduction and spread of COVID-19, including messages on arrival screens in airports (Dunham, 2020b). On January 26, the government advised Canadians against any non-essential travel to Wuhan (Global Affairs Canada, 2020b). Since January 30, Canada has recommended residents avoid all non-essential travel to China and, particularly, Hubei province and, further, began efforts to evacuate any Canadians from China, who wished to return home to Canada over the subsequent week (Connolly, 2020a).
Notably, starting in February 2020, Canada also began deferring deportation (Vogel, 2020), e.g. for unsuccessful refugee claimants, to Hubei and other high-risk areas to allow these individuals to stay in Canada temporarily (Blackwell, 2020a). The following month, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) announced it would stop deporting all people, except for “seriously criminal cases” evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and would begin to turn away asylum seekers arriving through the United States effective March 18, 2020. Previously, the government had isolated incoming asylum seekers for 14 days (Keung, 2020)
On February 3, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) ordered any repatriated person arriving by federally organized aircraft to Canada directly or indirectly from Hubei province, China, to remain at the Canadian Forces Base Trenton for a 14-day quarantine period (Canada, 2020b). On February 17, a new order stated that anyone who arrives in Canada, directly or indirectly from any foreign country in which there is an outbreak of COVID-19 by means of a flight that is organized by the Government of Canada or a foreign government for the purpose of transporting persons from the foreign country who have or may have been exposed to the virus, must remain at a government quarantine facility for a 14-day period (Canada, 2020b).
On March 9, the PHAC recommended that Canadians avoid all cruise ship travel (Jones, 2020a). Following this, on March 13, the Government of Canada advised that all Canadians avoid non-essential travel abroad, especially to high-risk countries with a Level 4 travel advisory that included China, Italy, and Iran (Global Affairs Canada, 2020c). On March 16, the Government of Canada announced that it will provide financial assistance to Canadians abroad through the “Emergency Loan Program for Canadians Abroad” (Global Affairs Canada, 2020a). The program provides an emergency loan of up to CA$5,000 to help Canadians return home or cover short-term needs while they work toward their return (ibid). On this date the government announced it would also start restricting international flights from coming into Canada beginning March 18 (Global Affairs Canada, 2020a). Thus, the Prime Minister urged all Canadians to avoid unnecessary travel outside of the country, until further notice, and urged travellers to return home to Canada while commercial means remained available (ibid); he also urged all travellers to self-isolate for 14 days after returning to Canada (ibid). In response to this warning, more than 1 million Canadians and permanent residents returned to Canada from abroad over the following week, according to the Canada Border Services Agency (Jones, 2020b).
On April 17, the government introduced new measures for people travelling by air, requiring all passengers to wear a non-medical mask or face covering during travel (Transport Canada, 2020b). Passengers travelling by marine modes of transportation are encouraged to wear non-medical masks or face coverings whenever possible.
On April 30, a new mobile application (“app”) called ArriveCAN was introduced (Health Canada, 2020d). Through the app, travellers arriving to Canada can input their 14-day isolation /quarantine information quickly, easily and securely upon arrival in Canada.
On June 3, a federal news release confirmed that Transport Canada had implemented new measures to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 (Canada, 2020ap). The measures included increased sanitation, health checks for passengers, and allowing passengers to remain in their vehicles on ferries (Canada, 2020ar). Following this, on June 12, additional measures were announced for travellers at Canadian airports, including mandatory temperature screenings for all passengers travelling to Canada or travellers departing Canadian airports for either international or domestic destinations (Canada, 2020at). The Government of Canada has taken a phased approach to implementing these screening requirements; the country is currently in Phase 1, which requires air operators to provide temperature screenings at the point of departure prior to boarding (ibid). By the end of July 2020, the country plans to move to Phase 2 by implementing self-screening stations in the departure zones of Canada’s four largest international airports (i.e., Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver), which are currently the only airports approved for international travel (ibid). By September, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority plans to move to phase 3 by introducing additional screening stations in the countries 11 next-busiest airports (ibid). Any traveller with an elevated temperature, without a medical certificate to support a cause not related to COVID-19, will not be permitted to travel and will be asked to re-book after a 14-day waiting period (ibid). Further, all personnel entering a restricted area of the airport will also be subject to temperature screening procedures, performed by Canadian Air Transport Security Authority personnel (ibid).
On June 30, the Government of Canada announced that they would be extending the Emergency Order that requires mandatory isolation/quarantine for travellers entering Canada until August 31 (PHAC, 2020ab). The 14-day isolation/quarantine requirement applies to anyone entering Canada, whether they arrive by air, land or sea (PHAC, 2020ab). The announcement made on this date also clarified when travellers are required to wear a non-medical mask or face covering; e.g. individuals who are otherwise exempt from isolation/ quarantine requirements are still recommended to wear a non-medical mask or face covering when in public settings, if physical distancing cannot be maintained (PHAC, 2020ab).
In a federal news release on August 14, the Government of Canada confirmed that they continue to recommend Canadians avoid non-essential international travel (Canada, 2020bn). As well, the Minister of Transport announced Canada’s Flight Plan for Navigating COVID-19, a plan outlining “the foundation for Canada’s current and future efforts to reduce the public health risks of COVID-19 while travelling by aircraft (Canada, 2020bn). The plan includes information on travel restrictions, mandatory use of face masks, mandatory health checks, temperature screening, restricted services and enhanced cleaning and sanitation protocols (Canada, 2020bq).
6.3 Border controls and internal travel
Border restrictions, beginning March 18, 2020, prohibited foreign nationals from entering Canada for non-essential travel; originally, those arriving from the United States (U.S.) were exempted (PHAC, 2020k). This restriction has been extended several times and is currently in place until at least July 21, 2020 (CBSA, 2020c). Since March 21, 2020, a collaborative agreement between the U.S. and Canada has restricted all non-essential travel across the border but has allowed all essential travel related to commerce and trade to continue (ibid). Since then, the border closure has been extended three times; it is currently in place until July 21, 2020 (Health Canada, 2020d). On March 25, a new order under the Quarantine Act, made a 14-day self-isolation mandatory for all individuals entering Canada, whether or not they have symptoms of COVID-19 (see Section 1) (PHAC, 2020e). On April 14, Canadian Border Services (CBSA) announced they would be temporarily reducing service hours at 27 Canadian land border locations in response to reduced border crossings during the COVID-19 pandemic (CBSA, 2020a).
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau first announced domestic travel restrictions on March 28, banning all travellers showing symptoms of COVID-19 from domestic flights and trains (Gardner, 2020). Following this, on March 30, the government announced that all passengers flying in Canada will be subject to a health check prior to boarding (PHAC, 2020k).
New measures for ferries and commercial passenger vessels were announced by the Minister of Transport on April 5, 2020 (Transport Canada, 2020a). Beginning April 6, the government prohibits all commercial marine vessels with a capacity of more than 12 passengers from engaging in non-essential activities, prevents any Canadian cruise ship from mooring, navigating or transiting in Canadian Arctic waters, and requires ferries and essential passenger vessel operators to immediately reduce the maximum number of passengers that may be carried on board by 50% and implement alternative practices to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 (ibid).
On April 6, the federal government announced new measures at Canadian land borders, including new screening measures and requirements to complete contact forms to help the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) monitor and enforce the 14-day self-isolation period (Canada Border Services Agency, 2020a). They also announced regulatory changes to facilitate entry into Canada for residents driving U.S. plated vehicles without paying duties and taxes for up to 60 days from the date of importation (ibid). Following their 14-day mandatory isolation, residents can use temporarily imported U.S. plated vehicles for essential purposes such as getting groceries or medical supplies.
An exemption to the above land border travel restrictions allows Americans to travel through Canada for the sole purpose of travelling to Alaska from the mainland U.S. for essential reasons, such as returning home or employment. Travel from Alaska through Canada to the lower 48 states is prohibited except for extenuating circumstances (K. Harris, 2020c). Further, while travelling through Canada, Americans are prohibited from making any unnecessary stops in Canada and are required to practice physical distancing, only leave their vehicles for essential purposes, and follow all local laws and public measures (ibid). For example, if required to stay at a hotel during their travels, residents of Alaska must not leave their hotel room (ibid). Failure to comply with the above can result in fines, for which the maximum value varies by PT (ibid).
On April 13, the Government of Canada granted an exemption for temporary foreign workers from the travel restrictions in Canada (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 2020). Employers must pay workers for the two-week isolation period and provide workers with transportation, accommodations and access to food and basic supplies (ibid). The government has committed to providing CA$1,500 for each temporary foreign worker to employers or those working with them to ensure requirements are fully met (ibid). Notably, skilled foreign workers are integral components of Canada’s agricultural and fishing sectors and, thus, the country’s food supply chain; many agricultural and fishing companies voiced concerns about the potential to lose their annual harvest without the aid of foreign workers (ibid). The travel restriction exemption also applies to other foreigners with student and work visas, provided they adhere to the 14-day isolation protocol (ibid).
On April 30, a new mobile app called ArriveCAN was announced, which allows travellers to input their 14-day isolation or quarantine information quickly, easily and securely upon arrival (Health Canada, 2020d). On May 12, the federal government announced that they would be suspending service at certain small vessel reporting sites, small airports of entry, ferry terminals, and to the Remote Area Border Crossing program (Canada Border Services Agency, 2020b). The suspension included 342 small vessel reporting sites and 126 small airports (ibid).
On May 14, the Government of Canada announced new measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in remote and vulnerable Arctic communities (Canada, 2020ag). These measures included prohibiting pleasure craft from operating within Canada’s Arctic coastal waters, as well as in the coastal areas of northern Quebec and Labrador (beginning June 1, 2020 and continuing until at least October 31, 2020) (ibid). On May 15, the CBSA announced temporary suspension of service at the Four Falls, New Brunswick port of entry along the Canada-U.S. land border (Canada Border Services Agency, 2020c).
On May 28, the federal government announced that cruise ships with the capability of providing overnight accommodations to 100 people or more were prohibited from operating in Canadian waters until October 31, 2020. As well, starting July 1, all other passenger vessels must follow provincial, territorial, local and regional health authority requirements for timelines and processes to resume operations (Canada, 2020ap).
On June 8, the CBSA announced changes to travel restrictions for immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents (CBSA, 2020b). Foreign nationals who are immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent resident, and who do not have any symptoms of COVID-19 or who do not have any 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 (CBSA, 2020b). Foreign nationals coming into Canada must still quarantine for 14 days upon arrival (CBSA, 2020b).
On July 30, the federal government announced that beginning July 31, stricter rules and additional entry conditions will be in place for travellers transiting through Canada to Alaska for non-discretionary purpose (CBSA, 2020d). These restrictions require in-transit foreign nationals to enter Canada at one of the five CBSA ports of entry. As well in-transit foreign nationals will be allowed a reasonable period of stay to carry out transit, will be limited to travel within Canada using the most direct route, and will be required to report to the nearest CBSA to confirm their exit from Canada.
Various measures to support international students have also been implemented, including allowing international students who had a valid study permit or who were approved for a study permit on or before March 18, 2020 to be exempt from travel restrictions that prevented most foreign nationals from countries other than the United States from entering Canada (Canada, 2020bc).
On August 31, in anticipation of the upcoming Labour Day weekend, the CBSA issued a news release reminding travellers that travel restrictions remain in place for all Canadian international border crossings (CBSA, 2020e).
Domestic travel restrictions are under the purview of PT and municipal authorities. Throughout March and April, many regions advised residents to only leave their homes for essential activities, such as medical appointments and purchasing groceries or medicines; further, many regions advised residents to purchase at least two weeks of essentials, such as groceries, to ensure their home was adequately supplied, in case isolation was required, and to reduce the number of non-essential trips outside of the home. Many PTs have also introduced orders banning short-term rentals to further deter domestic travel (Bresge, 2020). As PTs have begun to reopen, these recommendations have relaxed such that residents may travel for recreational purposes, e.g. travel to a cottage. In several PTs, more restrictive orders are in place; an overview of these is provided below.
A number of regions have also implemented formal travel restrictions. For example, on April 3, 2020, 14 communities of the Nunavik region of northern Quebec began a formal lockdown prohibiting non-essential travel into and out of these communities (CBC News, 2020a). Notably, many of these communities in Nunavik are geographically isolated and only accessible by air. Under the lockdown, no passenger flights were allowed into any of the communities and all regular flights were cancelled (CBC News, 2020a). In response to this announcement, the Canadian Armed Forces were deployed to assist these communities (ibid). On May 21, 2020, the Government of Quebec announced they would be releasing a reopening plan for the territories of Nunavik and the Cree Territory of James Bay; however, as of September 4, the plan has not yet been released (Quebec, 2020b). Quebecers are able to travel to other parts of the province but officials encourage residents to limit non-essential inter-regional travel. Notably, access to one of Quebec’s island communities, Îles-de-la-Madeleine, requires road and/or ferry travel through two other provinces; travel to Îles-de-la-Madeleine requires completion of a self-declaration form with a valid reason for travel (Quebec, 2020b). There are no border closures or self-isolation requirements for out-of-province travellers; however, all international travellers are required to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival in Quebec, as per federal orders (Quebec, 2020b). The official provincial website with instructions to travellers states that there are currently no isolation measures for people arriving from other Canadian provinces, but that non-essential travel should nonetheless be avoided (Government of Quebec, 2020az).
Rural and remote First Nations communities have introduced travel restrictions to limit non-residents from entering their geographically defined communities (reserves), except for emergency and essential services (Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, 2020). Examples can be seen as early as March 20 (Fort McKay First Nation and Fort McKay Métis communities) (Mitchell, 2020), on March 21, (Pimicikamak Cree Nation, located more than 770 kilometres north of Winnipeg) (Bogart & Macyshon, 2020), and on June 26 (Eabametoong First Nation, a remote fly-in community in northern Ontario) (Eabametoong First Nation, 2020).
In Newfoundland and Labrador, Bill 38 passed on May 4, 2020, which amended the province’s Public Health Protection and Promotion Act to prevent non-residents from entering the province, except in extenuating circumstances. A request to enter the province must be obtained from the Chief Medical Officer of Health and, after entering the province, travellers are required to self-isolate for 14-days (ibid). A number of remote, isolated communities have implemented more restrictive measures preventing non-residents from entering their communities. For example, the communities of Wabush and Happy Valley-Goose Bay have set-up barricades and checkpoints to prevent non-essential travel into their communities; a letter is required to provide proof of essential need or worker status (CBC News, 2020d). Until July 3, Prince Edward Island (PEI) currently prohibits all non-essential travel into their province, except for seasonal residents; all other travellers must apply for pre-travel approval to enter the province (Prince Edward Island, 2020). In the other neighbouring Atlantic provinces (i.e., Nova Scotia and New Brunswick), borders are monitored and non-residents are able to freely enter the province; however, travellers are screened prior to entry, required to submit a declaration form (specific to non-residents) and are required to self-isolate for 14-days after arrival (New Brunswick, 2020; Nova Scotia, 2020). New Brunswickers returning from travel from another Canadian PT for essential purposes, e.g. work, are not required to isolate 14 days (New Brunswick, 2020). Effective June 19, New Brunswick relaxed its border measures to allow Canadian travellers with immediate family or property in New Brunswick entry (ibid). Since July 3, residents of the four above Atlantic provinces are permitted to travel freely between the four provinces without the requirement to self-isolate, referred to as the “Atlantic Bubble” (New Brunswick, 2020; Newfoundland and Labrador, 2020b; Nova Scotia, 2020; PEI, 2020). New Brunswickers returning from travel from another Canadian PT for essential purposes, e.g. work, are not required to isolate 14 days
In Ontario, non-essential travel is discouraged but there are no formal domestic travel restrictions. However, several municipalities have implemented informal measures to deter domestic travellers, such as cottage owners or renters, from entering their communities. For example, in May, the medical officer of health for several communities along the popular waterfront area of Lake Erie introduced an order banning cottagers from seasonal properties, with a potential for fines of up to CA$5,000; however, this order was quickly rescinded (Humphreys, 2020). Further, several local mayors also implemented municipal orders; for example, the Mayor of Huron-Kinloss enacted an order preventing water being turned on for seasonal residences (Charlebois, 2020). Requests for cottagers to forgo non-essential travel during the Easter and May holiday long weekends were also repeatedly made by the Premier, particularly for the purposes of containing the virus and protecting the residents of these rural communities (ibid).
In Manitoba, out-of-province travellers are required to self-isolate for 14 days; however, starting June 21, this requirement will be waived for asymptomatic travellers from Western Canada (i.e., BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Yukon, and Northwest Territories) and north-western Ontario (Manitoba, 2020b). Certain exemptions are also in place for essential workers, e.g. health care professionals and law enforcement (ibid). Further, a public health order was introduced on April 17 prohibiting non-essential travel to northern Manitoba (north of the 53rd parallel of latitude) and to remote communities that are not connected to the provincial highway system by a year-round all-weather road (i.e., remote “fly-in” communities); however, this order was terminated on June 26, 2020 (Manitoba, 2020a). Travellers to northern Manitoba are asked to respect any restrictions put in place by local communities and First Nations (ibid).
In Saskatchewan, there are no formal province-wide travel restrictions or self-isolation requirements; however, travellers from out of province are asked to self-monitor for 14 days. On April 24, a public health order issued by the provincial government prohibited any travel to or outside the Northern Saskatchewan Administration District (NSAD), except for people living in this area, employees of the district required to enter for working purposes, persons delivering critical public services and allowable business services, Aboriginal persons engaging in activities such as exercising their constitutionally protected right to hunt, fish or trap, and persons who need to travel for medical treatment (Saskatchewan, 2020ap). On May 6, the travel restrictions in the NSAD were lifted at the request of the communities of Stony Rapids and La Ronge, in consultation with local public health officials (Saskatchewan, 2020ax).
In Alberta, there are no travel restrictions; however, officials advise against non-essential travel into or out of the province (Alberta, 2020a). This recommendation will not be lifted until the province enters Stage 3 of its reopening plan (date yet to be determined) (ibid). As of August 31, the province is in Stage 2 of its reopening plan (Government of Alberta, 2020b).
In British Columbia, non-essential intra- and inter-provincial travel is discouraged but there are no formal province-wide restrictions or isolation orders in place. However, access to some roads into the Yukon or Northwest Territories (NWT) is restricted to essential travel and certain communities, particularly isolated Indigenous communities, are closed to non-residents. For example, on March 18, the Council of the Haida Nation issued a letter urging against non-essential travel to their island communities (British Columbia, 2020g; Haida Nation, 2020) and on July 8 Haida Nation President Gaagwiis affirmed that the Haida Nation remains closed to non-residents and non-essential travel despite the reopening of travel elsewhere in British Columbia (Council of Haida Nation, 2020).
In Nunavut, a travel ban was implemented on March 25, 2020 prohibiting non-essential travel into Nunavut from any PT (Nunavut, 2020). Except for essential asymptomatic workers, all individuals who have obtained an exemption to enter Nunavut from the Chief Public Health Officer are required to self-isolate for 14 days at one of the four designated facilities outside of Nunavut (Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton, or Yellowknife)(ibid). Effective June 15, residents of Nunavut and NWT can cross the border without self-isolating, provided they have not left their territory in the two weeks prior, and NWT residents will be required to complete a declaration form prior to entry (ibid). Effective July 13, 2020, travel is allowed between Nunavut and Churchill, Manitoba but does not extend to other regions of Manitoba. Prior to travel, travellers must not have left either Nunavut or Churchill for two weeks and Nunavut residents must provide a written declaration and their contact information to the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer for Nunavut prior to travel (Nunavut, 2020). Travel from the rest of Canada remains prohibited at this time.
In NWT, non-essential travel has been prohibited since March 21, 2020; however, exemptions were made for Nunavut residents requiring medical services, essential workers, importation/exportation of goods, transient workers, and individuals with Aboriginal or treaty rights to harvest in unpopulated areas of NWT (Northwest Territories, 2020). Checkpoints are in place and fines for travelling without permission are CA$1,500 daily, with a daily CA$225 “victim surcharge” (Northwest Territories, 2020). Further, NWT residents returning from out-of-territory travel must self-isolate for 14 days in one of four NWT communities: Yellowknife, Inuvik, Hay River or Fort Smith (ibid). Residents travelling outside of their communities may also be asked to self-isolate before returning home and cannot isolate in their community (ibid). All travellers, including NWT residents, are required to submit a self-isolation plan prior to travel, submit a symptom check form, and self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms (ibid). Further, there are special passes permitting travel across the NWT-Alberta border in the Fort Smith area (ibid). Effective June 12, Nunavut residents are not required to self-isolate when travelling within NWT, if they have not travelled outside of the two territories in the 14 days prior.
In the Yukon, on April 17, border restrictions were introduced prohibiting non-essential travel under the Civil Emergency Measures Act (Yukon, 2020b). Anyone permitted to enter the Yukon, e.g. residents and essential workers, are required to submit a declaration at the border checkpoint and isolate for 14 days after arrival (ibid). Residents of several neighbouring communities (Atlin, Lower Post, Fraser, Jade City, Fireside or Pleasant Camp) were exempt from the 14-day isolation period, provided they had not travelled outside of Yukon or their home community in the 14 days prior (Yukon, 2020a). Further, all Yukon residents were advised to avoid non-essential inter-provincial travel and travel into Yukon’s rural communities; residents of rural communities were also advised to limit their visits to the capital, Whitehorse (ibid). Since July 1, 2020, as the Yukon, moved to Phase 2 of its reopening plan, the Yukon-BC land border has reopened and all residents of Canada are permitted to travel into Yukon for non-leisure purposes; however, the requirement to self-isolate in Whitehorse may still apply (ibid). Also as of July 1, travellers who are residents of Yukon, BC, NWT or Nunavut are no longer required to self-isolate, provided they have not travelled outside of these areas in the 14 days prior; this is referred to as the “Pacific Northwest Bubble”(ibid). All other travellers are still required to show a detailed self-isolation plan to border officers and isolation will continue to occur in Whitehorse (ibid). Yukoners living in communities outside of Whitehorse are permitted to isolate in their home communities (ibid). For residents of Alaska, travel through the Yukon is permitted provided the transit time does not exceed 24 hours, certain measures are followed, travellers are asymptomatic, and a designated travel route is followed (ibid).
Notably, several of the above border restrictions have resulted in legal challenges (S. Harris, 2020). For example, critics argue that these measures violate Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which states that every Canadian has the right to live and work in any PT (Canada, 2020u).
Specific provincial and territorial measures are reported by the North American Observatory on Health Systems and Policies on their dedicated COVID-19 page (https://ihpme.utoronto.ca/research/research-centres-initiatives/nao/covid19/).
6.4 Correctional facilities
The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) has introduced measures to address COVID-19 within federal correctional facilities (Kraig, 2020). While it is unclear what strategies the Government of Canada is considering, government officials and advocates are calling for the release of non-violent offenders and youth, asylum seekers, and immigrants in custody (Germano, 2020). This is in response to growing concerns of outbreaks in facilities and the ability to maintain the health and safety of inmates during the pandemic. On March 20, 2020, the province of Ontario announced its first confirmed case of COVID-19 in its jail system – a correctional officer at a Toronto detention centre (Howorun, 2020) . The officer had recently returned from travel in Europe but until earlier that week, asymptomatic correctional officers were expected to report for shift, regardless of travel history (ibid). Previously, on March 14, 2020, the CSC suspended visits from the public and volunteers, temporary absences from institutions (unless medically necessary), work releases for offenders, and electronic parole hearings ((Correctional Services Canada, 2020a). The CSC also stated it has contingency plans in place in each of its operational units to respond to crisis situations, along with preventative measures in place, including cleaning, disinfection, laundry, and waste disposal processes (Correctional Services Canada, 2020a).
Over March and April, several federal and PT correctional bodies took measures to release “low risk” offenders from correctional facilities to limit the spread of COVID-19. For example, the total inmate population across all provincial jails in Ontario fell from 8,344 on March 16 to 6,025 on April 9, according to the Ministry of the Attorney General (CBC News, 2020b). On April 16, 2020, one day after Canada’s first death of an inmate from COVID-19, federal corrections authorities agreed to release their first prisoner due to medical vulnerability increasing the risk of COVID-19-associated death (Fine, 2020). On April 24, 2020, CSC confirmed that, while there have been confirmed COVID-19 cases in correctional institutions across the country, only 1% of the total inmate population had been affected to date (Correctional Service Canada, 2020d). On May 14, 2020, the Commissioner of the CSC announced that a working group will be established to guide plans to lift restrictions around COVID-19 (Correctional Service Canada, 2020e, p. 14). This group will decide when visits, regular programming, and activities will be reinstated (ibid). Likewise, the Canadian Department of Justice established an Action Committee on Court Operation in Response to COVID-19 to provide national leadership as administrators restore operation of the country’s courts and develop court-specific health and safety guidelines to support provincial and judicial decision-making (Department of Justice, 2020c).
While there have been no widespread “lockdowns” of correctional facilities in Canada, specific facilities have implemented time-limited lockdowns in response to threats of COVID-19 outbreaks. For example, on March 27, while there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in federal prisons, a lockdown was put in place at the Drumheller Institution, a federal medium-security unit in Drumheller, Alberta, as a precautionary measure after inmates showed symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (Correctional Services Canada, 2020b). On March 30, Correctional Service Canada announced that two inmates at a maximum security facility, Port-Cartier Institution in Quebec, tested positive for COVID-19 (Correctional Service Canada, 2020a). Prior to the inmates being diagnosed, nine employees of the facility had also tested positive for COVID-19 (ibid). No lockdown was implemented but all infected individuals were isolated and contact tracing was performed (ibid). On April 8, Mission Institution, a medium security federal correctional institution in British Columbia, entered a lockdown due to inmates testing positive for COVID-19 (Correctional Service Canada, 2020b). Further, on April 15, a lockdown was put in place in the multi-security unit at the Federal Training Centre in Quebec, as inmates showed symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (Correctional Service Canada, 2020c).
On June 25, the Commissioner confirmed in an announcement that there were no COVID-19 outbreaks in any Canadian Correctional Services institutions (Correctional Services Canada, 2020c). As of this date there had been 360 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported in federal correctional institutions (Canada, 2020r). Of these, 231 were from institutions in Quebec; 8 from institutions in Ontario; and 121 from institutions in British Columbia. As of August 31, no additional cases have been reported (Correctional Services Canada, 2020c).
6.5 Financial support
Support for Individuals
Expenditure measures outlined in Canada’s Economic Response Plan include financial support for individuals and businesses negatively impacted by COVID-19 (Department of Finance, 2020a). Support for individuals and families includes: (1) increasing the Canada Child Benefit by providing an extra CA$300 per child; (2) the Special Goods and Service Tax credit payment, a one-time payment for low-and-modest income families of up to CA$400 for single individuals and CA$600 for couples; and (3) mortgage support on a case-by-case basis (ibid).
The new Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) provides additional support for eligible individuals aged 15 years and older facing unemployment and people who are sick, quarantined, or in self-isolation (ibid). The taxable benefit provides CA$2,000 per month for up to four months to workers who must stop working due to COVID-19 and do not have access to paid leave or other income support; workers who are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone as a result of COVID-19; working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children that are sick or need additional care because of school and day care closures; wage earners and self-employed individuals, including contract workers who are not eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) (ibid). To be eligible for CERB, individuals must have earned at least CA$5,000 in 2019, or the 12 months preceding their application (ibid). Applications for the CERB opened on April 6, with payments back-dated to March 15, 2020 (ibid). To avoid a potential crashing of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) CERB application website or overwhelming the CRA telephone lines, applications were available according to birth month (e.g. individuals born in January, February or March could apply on Mondays) (ibid). On April 15, 2020, the federal government announced that they would be expanding access to the CERB benefit by changing eligibility rules to allow people to earn up to CA$1,000 per month while collecting CERB, extend the CERB to seasonal workers who have exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to undertake their usual seasonal work, and to extend the CERB to workers who recently exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to find a job or return to work because of COVID-19 (Canada, 2020l). As well, the government announced that they are working with provinces and territories (PTs) through a new transfer to cost-share temporary top-up to the salaries of workers deemed essential who make less than CA$2,500 a month (ibid).
Other supports for individuals include:
• April 15: announcement of the New Indigenous Community Support Fund, which provides CA$305 million for a new distinctions-based support fund to address the needs of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation communities (Canada, 2020l).
• April 15: federal government committed to reducing minimum withdrawals from Retirement Income Funds by 25% (Canada, 2020l).
• April 3: federal government announced support for food banks and other local food organizations through an investment of CA$100 million (Canada, 2020i). This funding will be provided to organizations such as Food Banks Canada, Salvation Army, Second Harvest, Community Food Centres Canada and the Breakfast Club of Canada to purchase food and other basic necessities (ibid).
• May 12: new free virtual tax clinics on an interim basis to help individuals who rely on this regularly provided in-person service (CRA, 2020b).
• May 12: all seniors who qualify for Canada’s Old Age Security benefit or the Guaranteed Income Supplement program to receive a one-time, tax-free payment of CA$300 and CA$200, respectively, in June 2020, for a total of CA$500 to help cover increased financial pressures caused by COVID-19 (Canada, 2020av).
On August 10, the federal government confirmed that with the economy restarting, they are preparing to transition many Canadians back to EI by the end of August. With this transition, the government announced a new minimum unemployment rate of 13.1%, effective August 9, to be applied temporarily for all EI economic regions across the country (Canada, 2020bl). Following this, on August 20, the proposal for three new benefits was announced by the federal government (Canada, 2020bp). These include: (1) The Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) to provide CA$400 per week for up to 26 weeks to workers who are self-employed or not eligible for EI and who still require income support and who are available and looking for work; (2) The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) to provide CA$500 per week for up to two weeks for worker who are sick or must self-isolate for reasons related to COVID-19; and, (3) The Canada Recovery Benefit (CRCB) to provide CA$500 per week for up to 26 weeks per household who are unable to work because they must care for a child under the age of 12 due to the closures of schools or day cares, a family member with a disability or a dependent because their day program is closed due to COVID-19, or a child, a family member with disability or a dependent who is not attending school, day care, or other care facilities under the advice of a medical professional due to being at high-risk if they contract COVID-19 (Canada, 2020bp). The federal government stated that new legislation will be introduced to support the implementation of these benefits (Canada, 2020bp).
Support at the PT level, through PT action plans, is also in place for individuals affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In Ontario, for example, the Ontario Action Plan includes measures to help families pay for extra costs associated with school and day care closures, increased Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS) payment for low-income seniors for six months, support to families for their energy bills, and other financial support to people facing economic hardship (Ontario, 2020c). BC’s Action Plan includes CA$5 billion investment in income support, tax relief and direct funding for people, businesses and services (British Columbia, 2020c).
Support for Students
On April 15, the federal government announced a moratorium on the repayment of Canada Student loans (Canada, 2020l). Following this, on April 22, the federal government introduced the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB), providing students who cannot find summer employment as a direct result of COVID-19 and do not qualify for the CERB or EI with CA$1,250 per month from May through August 2020 (Canada, 2020t). Notably, CESB provides CA$2,000 per week to students with dependents or a disability (ibid). On May 15, eligible post-secondary students, and recent post-secondary and high-school graduates, could start applying for the CESB (Canada, 2020ab).
With this announcement, other support measures for students were also outlined including: (1) launching the “I Want to Help” online platform to provide information about service opportunities available in Canada; (2) a CA$153.7 million investment in the Youth Employment and Skills strategy to help youth develop the skills and gain the experience they need to successfully transition into the labour market; (3) changes to the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy’s Canada Summer Jobs program including expanding eligibility and providing increased wage subsidies; (4) a CA$80 million investment in the Student Work Placement Program to support up to 20,000 post-secondary students to obtain paid work; (5) a CA$15 million investment in the Supports for Student Learning Program to serve an additional 14,700 youth; (6) additional support for the Canada Service Corps to expand support for meaningful youth service projects; (7) a CA$40 million investment in Innovation, Science and Economic Development to support Mitacs in order to create 5,000 new job placements; (8) a CA$75.2 million investment to provide additional distinctions-based support to First Nations, Inuit and Metis Nation post-secondary students; (9) a CA$291.6 million investment to support up to 40,000 student researchers and post-doctoral fellows through the federal granting councils; and (10) a CA$7.5 million investment to support students through the National Research Council (Canada, 2020t). Furthermore, the government has committed to changing the Canada Student Loan Programs eligibility requirements to allow more students to qualify for supports to pay for tuition for Fall 2020 (ibid).
On August 26, the federal government announced CA$2 billion in funding to support provinces and territories through the Safe Return to Class Fund. The funding is intended to help provinces work with local school boards to ensure the safety of staff and students as they return to school in September (Canada, 2020bs). Facilitative measures to support international students who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic have also been introduced by the federal government including making changes to the process to apply for a study permit and changing the eligibility for the post-graduation work permit program (Canada, 2020br).
Support for Vulnerable Populations
As noted in Section 3.3, on April 4, the Government of Canada reconfirmed its investment of CA$207.5 million to support Canada’s most vulnerable populations including those experiencing homelessness and women fleeing gender-based violence (Employment and Social Development Canada, 2020a). The funding will include CA$157.5 million to the Reaching Home program, CA$40 million to Women and Gender Equality Canada, and CA$10 million to Indigenous Services Canada (ibid). On May 16, the Government of Canada announced that this funding had been disbursed to over 500 women’s shelters and sexual assault centres across Canada (Canada, 2020ak). Further, on April 6, the federal government announced flexibility for organizations under the New Horizons for Seniors Program to use funding previously received through the community-based stream to provide immediate and essential services to seniors impacted by COVID-19 (Employment and Social Development Canada, 2020b).
On April 14, Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau announced additional support to address the health, economic and transportation needs in northern communities in Canada (Canada, 2020k). The support includes a transfer of CA$72.6 million to the governments of Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut to support their COVID-19 health and social services preparations and response, including up to CA$17.3 million to the governments of Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut to support northern air carriers, making CA$15 million available in non-repayable support for businesses in the territories to help address the impact of COVID-19, and providing an additional CA$25 million to Nutrition North Canada to increase subsidies so families can afford food and personal hygiene products (ibid).
As noted in Section 1.4, ISC is not able to accurately track COVID-19 cases across Indigenous communities due to the limitations of their jurisdictional focus. On May 9, the ISC announced a fund of CA$250,000 to improve data collection for Indigenous peoples impacted by COVID-19 (Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, 2020).
On May 13, the federal government announced funding of CA$2.3 million to support efforts to combat COVID-19 in north-western Saskatchewan (Canada, 2020ae). The funds will go toward supporting security checkpoints in impacted communities, measures to address food security, provision of homecare supplies, and enhancement of regional and community capacity, including youth engagement (ibid). As well, on May 16, the Government of Canada announced they were working with the United Way Centraide Canada, the Canadian Red Cross and the Community Foundations of Canada to disburse the CA$350 million Emergency Community Support Fund (Employment and Social Development Canada, 2020c).
On May 22, the Government of Canada launched a web-based benefits finder tool called “Find financial help during COVID-19”; the tool provides individuals with information on federal, provincial and territorial benefits programs available to them (Canada, 2020am). Further, the federal government announced a CA$1.1 million investment to support national disability organizations through the Social Development Partnership Program to enhance their communications and engagement to address the impact of COVID-19 on persons with disabilities (Canada, 2020as).
On July 20, the federal government announced that CA$10 million of previously announced funding to support organizations providing services to women and their families fleeing violence would be distributed to other organizations that provide important services to those experiencing gender-based violence (Canada, 2020be). Approximately 1,000 organizations across the country will benefit from this funding (ibid). Following this, on July 31, the federal government announced investments in supports for temporary foreign workers (CA$6 million investment), enhanced inspection regime and improvements to how tips and allegations of employer non-compliance are treated (CA$16 million investment), and support to employers to improve the health and safety of Canadian and temporary foreign workers on farms (CA$35 million investment) (Canada, 2020bi). Another announcement on July 31 stated that the federal government would be investing 59.6 million to strengthen the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and safeguard the health and safety of temporary forging workers from COVID-19 (Canada, 2020bg).
In August, additional support for Indigenous organizations was announced. On August 6, the federal government announced a CA$13.5 million investment to support the Toronto Aboriginal Support Services Council during the COVID-19 pandemic (Canada, 2020bj). Following this, on August 9, the federal government announced support for 18 projects in Quebec Indigenous communities through a CA$4.2 million investment (Canada, 2020bk). On August 12, the federal government announced an additional CA$305 million to support Indigenous Peoples during the pandemic through the Indigenous Community Support Fund (Canada, 2020bm).
Support for Businesses
Federal expenditure measures currently in place to support businesses include: (1) extending the Work-Sharing program to provide small businesses with wage subsidies for a period of three months, equal to 10% of remuneration paid during that period up to a maximum of CA$1,375 per employee and CA$25,000 per employer; (2) establishing a business credit availability program to provide more than CA$10 billion of additional support to small-and medium-sized businesses through the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada; (3) increasing credit available to farmers by CA$5 billion in lending capacity; and (4) re-launching the Insured Mortgage Purchase program, initially developed in response to the 2008-9 financial crisis, which stated that the Government of Canadas is prepared to purchase up to CA$150 billion of insured mortgage pools through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) (Department of Finance, 2020a). Additional investments continue to be made, including:
• April 8: temporary changes to the Canada Summer Job program such as an increase in the wage subsidy and extension to the end date of employment, to support businesses and young Canadians (Canada, 2020j)
• April 16: expansion to the Canada Emergency Business Account to businesses that paid between CA$20,000 and CA$1.5 million in total payroll in 2019 and announcing its intent to introduce the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance for small businesses (Canada, 2020m)
• April 17: CA$675 million to small and medium-sized businesses that are unable to access the government existing COVID-19 support measures, CA$287 million to support rural businesses and communities, CA$500 million to establish a COVID-19 Emergency Support Fund for Cultural, Heritage and Sport Organizations to help address the financial needs of affected organizations within these sectors, CA$250 million to assist innovative, early-stage companies that are unable to access existing COVID-19 business support, and CA$20.1 million in support of Futurpreneur Canada , a non-profit organization that provides funding and support to young aspiring business owners (Canada, 2020p). Additional investments were announced to support the energy sector in an effort to create jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic including an investment of up to CA$1.72 billion to clean up orphan and/or inactive oil and gas wells, and up to CA$750 million to create a new proposed Emissions Reduction Fund to reduce emissions in Canada’s oil and gas sector, and expansion of eligibility for the new Business Credit Availability Program (ibid).
• April 18: new support for Indigenous businesses including CA$306.8 million in funding to help small and medium- sized Indigenous businesses and to support Aboriginal Financial Institutions that offer financing to these businesses (Canada, 2020q).
In an effort to further support employers facing challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government launched the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy Calculator for Employers on April 21, 2020 (CRA, 2020a). The CEWS provides a 75% wage subsidy of up to CA$847 per employee per week to eligible employers for up to 12 weeks, retroactive to March 15, 2020 (ibid). The wage subsidy calculator, found on the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website, includes detailed information and instructions about who can apply for the subsidy, how eligibility is assessed and how the subsidy is calculated (CRA, 2020c). Employers can print a statement and use this information to inform decisions about retaining and re-hiring workers. On May 15, the federal government announced that they would extend the CEWS by an additional 12 weeks, until August 29, 2020 (Canada, 2020ai). On May 15, the government also extended the eligibility for the program to allow partnerships with one or more non-eligible members, Indigenous government-owned businesses, registered Canadian Amateur Athletic Associations, registered journalism organizations, and non-public educational and training institutions who meet the other eligible criteria to be eligible (Canada, 2020ah). On July 15, the federal government announced they were proposing a further extension of CEWS until December 19, 2020 (Canada, 2020bd). On August 11, the federal government announced that they had launched an updated Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy Calculator (CRA, 2020d). As part of this announcement, the government reported that the CEWS had provided CA$26.58 billion in subsidies to more than 275,000 employers.
In early May the federal government announced additional support for businesses, including:
• May 5: announced CA$77 million for food processors to outfit workers with PPE and reconfigure plants to support physical distancing (Blaze Baum et al., 2020). Notably, a meat packing plant in Alberta was the site of Canada’s largest outbreak of COVID-19, which resulted in the plant closing and workers calling for the plant to remain closed, citing concerns that the safety issues that contributed to the outbreak had not yet been resolved (ibid).
• May 11: establishing a Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility to provide bridge financing to Canada’s largest employers, expanding the Business Credit Availability Program to mid-sized companies with larger financing needs, and continue to provide financing to businesses through Farm Credit Canada (Canada, 2020aa).
• May 13: introducing a new Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF) (Canada, 2020ad). The Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages announced CA$962 million will be available for businesses through the program (ibid). The program, aimed to help businesses and organizations that are key to the regions and local economies, is delivered by regional development agencies across the country (ibid). The funding includes CA$110 million for Atlantic Canada, CA$211 million for Quebec, CACA$34.3 million for Northern Canada, CA$252.4 million for Southern Ontario, CA$49.5 million for Northern Ontario and CA$304.2 million for Western Canada (Canada, 2020ac).
• May 14: in partnership with the Ontario provincial government, the federal government announced they would be investing up to CA$2.25 million to help famers protect employees and ensure the continued supply of health food products (Canada, 2020af). The funding will be part of the second intake of the Agri-food Workplace Protection Program (ibid).
• May 15: announcing additional support for the dairy sector that has experienced “significant fluctuations in the demand for many dairy products” due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Canadian Dairy Commission Act has been amended and the Canadian Dairy Commission’s borrowing limit has been increased by CA$200 million for temporary storage of butter and cheese (Canada, 2020aj).
• May 19: changes to Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) to increase the number of farmers that are eligible, e.g. farmers without payroll to access the CA$40,000 interest-free loan available under CEBA, with up to CA$10,000 of the loan forgiven if the rest is repaid by December 31,2022 (Canada, 2020al).
• May 25: announcing a new four-week hotline service called Business Resilience Service to support entrepreneurs and small business owners in need of financial planning advice (Canada, 2020al). The service included access to 125 members of Chartered Professional Accountants Canada to provide free, customized financial guidance to business owners (Canada, 2020an)
• May 25: Prime Minister Trudeau announcing that the federal government has pledged to work with PTs to ensure that all workers have access to 10 paid sick leave days per year (Berthiaume, 2020b). No specifics were provided but it was anticipated that such a policy will be presented when the House of Commons resumes voting in September 2020 (ibid).
• June 1: new supports announced for businesses operating in Canada’s national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas, e.g. up to 75% of eligible commercial rents for the months of April, May and June 2020 would be waived (Canada, 2020aq)
• June 15: changes to the Canada Emergency Businesses Account announced which would allow owner-operated small businesses that had been ineligible for the program to now be eligible (Canada, 2020au)
• June 30: extension of the existing rent relief program (CECRA) for small businesses by one additional month to cover eligible small business rents for July 2020 (Canada, 2020az)
• July 31: extension of CECRA by one month to help eligible small businesses pay rent for August (Canada, 2020bf).
As well, on August 17, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) released an e-course called, Pandemic Planning: Reopening for Business, in an effort to provide organizations the resources to help them safely return to work during the COVID-19 pandemic (Canada, 2020bo). The course is intended to guide employers, supervisors, managers and workers on what controls are needed to protect the health and safety of everyone.
At the provincial level, there are also various supports for businesses facing financial strain. For example, Ontario, Quebec, and BC have programs in place to provide loans to businesses struggling with cash flow (Canada, 2020am).
Tax measures have also been implemented to support individuals and businesses. Support for individuals and families includes the Special Goods and Service Tax credit payment, a one-time payment for low-and-modest income families of up to CA$400 for single individuals and CA$600 for couples, and extended the deadline to file individual income tax (from June 1 to August 31) without interest penalties (Department of Finance, 2020a).
Several national companies have also implemented measures to assist individuals and businesses facing financial challenges during the pandemic. For example, on March 18, 2020 Canada’s six largest banks announced they would allow mortgage deferrals for up to six months and relief on credit products for individuals in financial crisis as a result of the pandemic (Deschamps, 2020).
Specific provincial and territorial measures are reported by the North American Observatory on Health Systems and Policies on their dedicated COVID-19 page (https://ihpme.utoronto.ca/research/research-centres-initiatives/nao/covid19/).
6.6 Maintaining the supply of food and essential goods
In an effort to maintain critical goods and supplies, the Government of Canada has created a COVID-19 Supply Council (Canada, 2020w). The council includes a diverse group of leaders to provide advice on the procurement of critical goods and services required in Canada (ibid). On May 2, 2020, the government announced a joint action plan to facilitate the flow of goods, services and personnel amid COVID-19 (Canada, 2020v). After a virtual meeting with representatives from Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea, a joint statement was signed, agreeing to facilitate cross-border movement of essential goods to maintain open and connected supply chains (ibid).
On May 26, the Government of Canada announced that they were taking steps to ensure “the resilience of the food supply chain and to provide support to keep the agriculture sector strong” (Canada, 2020ao). The commitment included a CA$9.2 million investment to enhance the Youth Employment and Skills Program and fund up to 700 positions for youth in the agriculture industry (ibid). The funding is intended to help organizations with labour shortage and provide youth with job experience in agriculture that will provide career-related work experience (ibid).
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