British Columbia will not ban visitors from other provinces, Premier John Horgan said Thursday, because a review of legal options showed it would not be possible right now.
Horgan said most interprovincial travel right now is for work and cannot be restricted in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
But he also left the door open for more restrictions in the future.
“The review of our legal options made it clear we can’t prevent people from travelling to British Columbia. We can impose restrictions on people travelling for non-essential purposes if they are causing harm to the health and safety of British Columbians,” Horgan said in a statement.
“If we see transmission increase due to interprovincial travel, we will impose stronger restrictions on non-essential travellers.”
Horgan said he spoke with other premiers and the prime minister on Thursday, and has asked them to spread the message that nobody should be travelling for non-essential reasons right now.
“We ask all British Columbians to stay close to home while vaccines become available. And to all Canadians outside of B.C., we look forward to your visit to our beautiful province when we can welcome you safely,” Horgan said.
He added that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is looking into tighter restrictions on international travel, and B.C. will be ready to support any efforts in that direction.
Horgan announced his plan to seek legal advice on the matter last week, in response to concerns about tourists from other provinces visiting over the Christmas holidays, as well as “frustration and anger” over Canadian politicians travelling abroad for vacations.
An emergency room doctor from Whistler recently told CBC News about treating a “worrying” number of patients from Ontario and Quebec who had travelled west over the holidays.
However, there were questions about the constitutionality of restricting travel across provincial boundaries.
Lawyers have said that charter rights are subject to reasonable limits if the government proves those limits are justified in order to achieve an objective. In this case, the province would need to prove a ban on non-essential travel is justified by the risk of increased COVID-19 transmission caused by tourists visiting from other parts of the country.
Horgan said health officials’ advice continues to be for everyone in B.C. to obey the current orders wherever they are.