U.S.-Canadian couples ask Canada to consider their plan to open border so they can reunite
|Toronto Star 01 Aug 2020 at 19:26|
DETROIT—Lauren Hughes, 23, lives in Windsor, Ontario, and her fiancé Addie Rivett, 24, lives in Farmington Hills. Despite being in different countries, door-to-door their homes are a mere 20-minute drive across the Detroit River.
But they might as well be oceans apart. Like so many unmarried, but committed couples where one person resides in Canada and the other in the states, they can’t visit each other because of Canada’s international border restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Earlier this month, Canada extended its restrictions against U.S. citizens entering its country another 30 days to Aug. 21 as cases of coronavirus continue to surge stateside.
The international non-U.S. travel restriction was set to expire Friday, but the government of Canada extended it to Aug. 31, to the dismay of some because of a lack of clear guidance on family reunification, which is a preferred option to open borders.
“So now we wait,” said Hughes. “Wait to be included as family, wait for a vaccine, wait for U.S. embassies and consulates around the world to open, wait for a miracle that U.S. case numbers go down, or that this virus miraculously goes away. Just a lot of waiting.”
This is not the first time Canada has extended its border restrictions. But this time the group Advocacy for Family Reunification at the Canadian Border, of which Hughes and Rivett are members, is demanding action.
It is ready to take Canada to court charging discrimination based on family status. But first, the group hopes that a collaborative approach will succeed.
A FOUR-POINT PLAN
Canada’s restrictions prevent foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens, from entering Canada by land, air or sea for any discretionary travel including checking on a seasonal home, visiting friends or partners with the exception of spouses or common-law relationships. It defines common law as couples who have lived together uninterrupted for at least a full year.
Earlier this month, the advocacy group, which has about 4,400 members, presented a four-point proposal to the Canadian government suggesting ways to safely allow for exemptions beyond marriage and common law. To abate concerns that family reunification would expose Canadians to the virus, the group proposed the following:
—An Affidavit of Personal Responsibility: The Canadian will sign a legally and financially binding attestation that the foreign national family member will follow public health guidelines. This can be enforced by fines or incarceration.
—Safe Coverage Provision: The Canadian will be responsible for the foreign national family member’s health care costs in Canada, or there will be proof of insurance covering COVID-19.
—Border Point of Care Testing Provision: The foreign national will take and pay for any COVID-19 testing available both at the border and in follow up. This is how Canadian health care workers and how international NHL players are able to operate in Canada.
—Family Quarantine Provision: The Canadian family member(s) will quarantine for 14 days upon reuniting with the foreign national. The asymptomatic foreign national will quarantine their entire stay in Canada, up to 14 days.
The group has launched Faces of Advocacy, a social media campaign showing all the separated Canadian families.
“I am aware of the seriousness of this virus, which is why I am for quarantining and keeping the border closed for the time being,” Hughes said. “However, we are just asking for an exemption with strict guidelines. We hope to get a yes or no on this proposal.”
DECISION WILL BE CANADA’S
A spokeswoman for Bill Blair, Canada’s minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, did provide a response on the government’s position on the four-point proposal or the possibility of court action.
But, in an email, Blair’s spokeswoman Mary-Liz Power said: “We brought forward significant restrictions at our borders to flatten the curve and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Canada. These decisions have not been taken lightly, but we know that they are necessary to keep Canadians safe.”
Canadians have made significant sacrifices amidst the pandemic, and the government has been looking at ways to keep families together and reunite others who were separated, Power said.
“We have brought forward measures that will permit a limited exemption to this restriction for asymptomatic, immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents to enter Canada to reunite,” Power said. “The decision on when to reopen our border will be made in Canada, in the best interest of Canadians. We will continue to do what is necessary to keep Canadians safe and will base our decisions on the best public health evidence available.”