Returning travellers must present negative COVID-19 test at Canadian land borders: Trudeau

By Terry Davidson

Law360 Canada (February 9, 2021, 4:20 PM EST) -- Ottawa is yet again tightening its rules around non-essential travel by requiring those returning to Canada via a land border to have been tested for COVID-19 prior to their arrival.

As of Feb. 15, those coming in by land will have to show that a PCR test had been administered within the previous 72 hours, “just like for air travel,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as part of a Feb. 9 address to the nation.

 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

This new requirement, something many thought to be just a matter of time, comes after an earlier federal government announcement that, as of Jan. 7, air travellers returning to Canada from abroad would have to be tested for COVID-19 within 72 hours before boarding their flight.

But during questions from the media about the new land border rule, Trudeau clarified that “it is not legal to refuse entry to any Canadian who wants to come home.”

“That’s the major difference between land borders and air borders. You can prevent someone from boarding a flight in Miami or elsewhere, you can’t prevent someone who is standing at a land border crossing from entering Canada because technically they are already on Canadian soil when they are speaking to that customs officer.”

But Trudeau said those unable to show proof of a test to border officials could be subject to “a stiff penalty,” a fine, quarantine and the demand of “a rapid and complete follow-up.”

“These are measures we are putting forward, but as of [Feb. 15], people who show up at a Canadian land border on non-essential travel — like returning snowbirds — will be expected to show a negative PCR test from the previous 72 hours,” he said.

The fine for not having proof of a test could reportedly be as high as $3,000.

On Jan. 29 Trudeau announced the suspension of flights by major Canadian airlines to “sun destinations” in the Caribbean and Mexico and also said air travellers returning from there would soon be subjected to more testing and made to self-isolate at federally designated hotels for up to three days — at their own expense — while they await the results. 

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