OTTAWA—Frustrated at a fluctuating vaccine supply and the aggressive spread of COVID-19 in his province, Quebec Premier François Legault demanded Monday that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ban all non-essential travel into and out of Canada — a suggestion Trudeau has dismissed just hours earlier.
Trudeau said the Canadian Constitution guarantees citizens the right to leave and enter the country.
However, he also urged Canadians to cancel any international vacations planned for March break, and warned that Ottawa “can impose new restrictions without advance notice at any time” on travellers.
Federal officials at the Public Health Agency of Canada, the health minister’s office and the Prime Minister’s Office later declined to specify what new measures might be under review, or to say whether it could include mandatory quarantine in federally overseen facilities at a traveller’s expense, a measure Australia has used.
Legault said he didn’t care whether travellers were isolated at their homes or at hotels, as long as there was stringent followup by the RCMP or public officials.
He has instructed his officials to look at whether Quebec provincial police could step in and increase surveillance of travellers at airports because Quebec is not satisfied with what it sees a lack of action by the federal government.
Legault said the situation in Quebec hospitals is still dire, with 1,500 people hospitalized with COVID-19, and that he will not consider relaxing the province’s strict curfew measures until those numbers begin to drop.
He said another international travel ban is justified no matter what the constitution says.
“How come we were able to do it last spring?” Legault asked. “I think the situation is so critical that we have to have an exception.
“I think Justin is worrying a bit about the United States, but what about all the other countries? For example, an inclusive package to Punta Cana — do we really need to have those trips right now? I think not.”
Legault painted Trudeau as too slow to act in the spring, after many Quebecers had already left the country for sunny southern vacations during a spring break that comes earlier than in most other parts of the country.
“We have to remember Mr. Trudeau took too much time last March, almost a year ago, after the school breaks to close the frontiers and we have a very bad impact here in Quebec,” he said.
“So I would like very much that we don’t repeat the same error.”
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