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Most Of Canada’s Mandatory Quarantine Exemptions Were For The NHL

Most Of Canada’s Mandatory Quarantine Exemptions Were For The NHL
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The Calgary Flames and the Dallas Stars benches are seen during pregame for game six of the western conference first round of the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on Aug. 20, 2020 in Edmonton, Alta.

OTTAWA Five national interest exemptions covering 1,458 people have been signed by the federal immigration minister alone since the onset of the pandemic, his office confirmed late Thursday a day after an official gave outdated information at a House of Commons committee meeting.

National interest exemptions allow travellers to enter Canada and skip the mandatory 14-day quarantine. They can be authorized by senior public health officials, a handful of cabinet ministers and the prime minister.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) spokesperson Shannon Ker told HuffPost Canada the minister has signed off on five national interest exemptions, bringing the total number of people covered under these exemptions to 1,458 people.

All of these were done in close consultation with our officials at [Public Health Agency of Canada] and with strong measures in place to protect the health and safety of Canadians, said Ker.

The statement updates a number offered by an IRCC official at a House of Commons committee Wednesday.

When asked by Conservative immigration critic Raquel Dancho how many national interest exemptions hes granted, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino did not have an answer. He deferred the question to a department official, who told members that 1,300 national interest exemptions have been granted.

His office said four exemptions, which cover players, staff, and some third-party vendors of the National Hockey League (1,200 people), Major League Baseball (20 people), and Major League Soccer, have been granted (134 people for pre-season training, 104 people for pre-playoff training).

Ker said the most recent exemption was granted later in November so it wasnt within the timeframe that our official gave at committee.

CP/Sean Kilpatrick

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Nov. 12, 2020.

According to documents tabled in the House of Commons last week, the most recent exemption was granted to Major League Soccer on Nov. 10 for pre-playoff training.

An overwhelming majority are professional athletes, including 1,200 people associated with the NHL.

Exemptions are granted on the basis that the league has a comprehensive public health plan approved by the PHAC and has obtained written commitment from implicated provinces and municipalities supporting the leagues proposed risk mitigation measures, according to documents.

The issuance of exemptions in these five cases was considered to be in the national interest given the importance of professional sports to Canadas society and economy, the department wrote in its response explaining why athletes got a pass from a mandatory quarantine.

The presence of these individuals in Canada to practice and play their respective sports was deemed to support economic growth and recovery, social cohesion, national pride, and the beginning of a positive return to normalcy.

The order in council allowed only a limited number of groups to enter the country, including immediate family members of Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

A mandatory 14-day quarantine order for out-of-country travellers was issued in April . It was amended in June to allow departments with national interest authority to enforce conditions on any approved exemption.

Lars Hagberg / Reuters

A car enters the Canadian checkpoints at the Canada-United States border crossing at the Thousand Islands Bridge, which remains closed to non-essential traffic to combat the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Lansdowne, Ontario, Canada September 28, 2020. REUTERS/Lars Hagberg

Foreign Affairs Minister Franois-Philippe Champagne has issued 140 individual national interest exemptions as of Oct. 5.

Nineteen of those were issued before rules were changed in June. After the order was revised, 121 exemptions were granted.

The documents do not indicate how many exemptions have been granted by the health minister, senior public health officials, or the prime minister.

According to documents, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair approved nine national interest exemptions as of September.

One exemption was granted by the public safety minister in September because a witness in a criminal case was denied an application to testify remotely.

When asked which court denied the remote testimony application, a public safety spokesperson declined to provide the information, telling HuffPost Canada privacy concerns prevent the release of information that could be used to identify the individual.
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