B.C. premier seeking legal advice on feasibility of inter-provincial travel ban

The B.C. government is getting legal advice to determine whether an inter-provincial travel ban would be feasible — and, presumably, whether it is constitutional — to further insulate the province as COVID-19 case numbers in other parts of Canada hit “dangerous” levels.

Premier John Horgan on Thursday said he and other leaders will be speaking about the issue later in the day and on Friday during a virtual, two-day cabinet retreat this week, with the goal to nail down which options the government can take — if any — by end of the summit.

“People have been talking about [a ban] for months and months, as you know, and I think it’s time we put it to bed finally and say either, ‘We can do it, and this is how we can do it,’ or ‘We can’t,'” the premier said.

“We have been trying our best to find a way to meet that objective … in a way that’s consistent with the charter and other fundamental rights here in Canada. So, legal advice is what we’ve sought.”

B.C.’s case counts are in a better place than those in provinces like Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan. In Ontario, a strict new stay-at-home order came into effect at 12:01 a.m. local time as case counts soared. The epidemiological curves in Quebec and Saskatchewan are also trending upward, while B.C.’s is heading down.

An emergency room doctor from Whistler, B.C., joined the call for an inter-provincial restrictions after seeing a “worrying” number of patients from Ontario and Quebec who had travelled west over the holidays.

Horgan also acknowledged news that a number of Canadian politicians had travelled during their time off “led to a firestorm of frustration and anger,” reigniting the ban debate.

“To the ER doc and other British Columbians: I agree with you that, on the surface, [a ban] would seem an easy thing to do — to just tell people not to come here. That’s not part and parcel of who we are as Canadians,” the premier said, adding that he’s asked provincial leaders to urge people to stay home and not travel to B.C.

Consitutional questions

There have been questions about the constitutionality of a travel ban since the idea first arose in the spring.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association filed a challenge against Newfoundland and Labrador last May after a woman was stopped at the border on the ground of pandemic restrictions. The woman, who is from Nova Scotia, had tried to cross the border to attend her mother’s funeral earlier in the month.

The challenge was filed under Section 6 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which deals with mobility rights within the country.

“This is about how anybody in Canada can freely move within Canada,” the woman’s lawyer, John Drover, told CBC Newfoundland and Labrador that month.

“No province in Canada can shut its borders to Canadian citizens.”

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