'Each time we get a different answer': Do older children arriving to Canada have to stay in quarantine hotels?
TORONTO -- A group of Toronto-area parents are struggling to interpret Canada’s rules over whether younger adults and older children have to book themselves into so-called quarantine hotels when they return to Canada.
The problem appears to be the use of two definitions for whether a child or a young adult qualifies for an exemption and can go straight home — with two different ages — and, if someone is caught in between, no one is sure what will happen when they get to the airport.
“Each time we get a different answer,” said Michael Stavsky, whose 20-year-old son Isaac is slated to return to Canada after spending two years studying in Israel on March 10. Stavsky said his son has received both doses of the vaccine while studying abroad.
“We had answers ranging from, ‘sure it says 22 and under, that’s no problem,’ to others that said ‘no it’s 19 and under and even one saying, ‘it’s 20 and under.’ We don’t know,” he said.
The Stavskys aren’t the only family that’s had this issue, said Peter Kent, the MP for Thornhill. He said he’s received several calls from people who aren’t sure where government officials will send their children.
“It’s been very inconsistent and CBSA, Health Canada and Immigration Canada, the messaging is all over the place,” Kent told CTV News Toronto.
The hotel stay requirement can cost between $1,000 and $2,000 depending on the hotel and require all incoming air travellers to Canada to spend at least three days in an approved hotel at their own expense as they await the results of a COVID-19 test they were required to take when they landed in Canada.
Some guests have complained to CTV News about a lack of bottled water and hot, prompt meals; others have said the hotels have been very difficult to book.
CTV News Toronto reached out to the Canadian Border Services Agency about the question of whether young adults must stay in the hotels, but the department referred the inquiry to the Public Health Agency of Canada, which didn’t respond by deadline.
The answer, however, may lie in the order-in-council that explains the quarantine regulations. It says most people are required to “quarantine themselves without delay at a government-authorized accommodation…and remain until they receive the result for the COVID-19 molecular test.”
The rule doesn’t apply to a “diplomatic or consular courier” and an “unaccompanied dependent child or an unaccompanied minor.”
If that seems clear, it isn’t, said immigration lawyer Michael Battista, who pointed out that “unaccompanied minor” is customarily someone under 18, while a “unaccompanied dependent child” for immigration purposes is someone who is under 22 — as long as they are not married.
“To use both definitions simultaneously does create confusion,” Battista said.
He said strictly the language implies that if a person meets either definition they should be eligible — but it is going to be up to the border guards -- because any legal appeal will take too long to make a difference for a two-week quarantine.
The people coming into Canada from Israel are much more likely to be vaccinated than those already here — more than 93 per cent of adults in the country have received at least one dose, while less than five per cent of Canadian adults have.