Ontario woman wants exemption to mandatory self-isolation to visit elderly parents in U.S.
TORONTO -- A woman living close to the Canada-U.S. border in Ontario says the 14-day mandatory self-isolation period due to the COVID-19 pandemic is tearing families apart.
Sandy Pearce is an American citizen and permanent resident of Canada. She lives in Fort Erie and works in Niagara Falls in the tourism industry, but her elderly parents live in Hamburg, N.Y., just south of Buffalo.
It usually takes her about 15 minutes to drive to Hamburg, but since the pandemic was declared and the borders were closed to non-essential travel, she has been unable to visit her family in the United States.
She last crossed the border in June, but had to cut her visit short when her workplace reopened and she had to give herself time to self-isolate upon her return.
“It’s tearing me apart,” Pearce told CTV News Toronto. “I can’t do the 14-day quarantine all the time if I want to go over and help my parents.”
“Families are being ripped apart and if this continues into next year, something’s got to be done for us.”
Pearce said that her 92-year-old father lives alone, while her 88-year-old mother lives with her 90-year-old stepfather.
“They're having a hard time cooking and cleaning and going grocery shopping. They need me there. They don't have anybody over there.”
Pearce is able to travel into the U.S. to visit her parents with relative ease, but has to self-isolate for 14 days upon her return to Canada. She said the quarantine period makes it impossible for her to visit her family because she can’t afford to take that much time off work.
She also said that her situation is not unique and that a number of her friends are in similar predicaments, where they are separated from loved ones by the Canada-U.S. border.
“Why can't they make exceptions? There's always exceptions to every rule,” Pearce said, noting that certain essential workers are able to cross the border every day.
“I’m not asking for the border to be open…it just needs to be a bit easier for people in my situation who have elderly parents.”
A spokesperson for the Canada Border Services Agency told CTV News Toronto that while they recognize that the 14-day self-isolation period is difficult, it remains mandatory for all those entering the country regardless of whether or not they are showing symptoms of COVID-19.
“These are unprecedented times and the measures imposed were done so in light of potential health risks and to help reduce and manage the number of foreign travel-related cases of COVID.”
Pearce has applied to the Public Health Agency of Canada for an exemption to the self-isolation restriction, but has yet to hear back. She said she is not opposed to taking a COVID-19 test prior to crossing the border.
She is also considering taking an emergency leave from her job in order to care for her parents.
According to the government’s website, the only people who have been given an exemption from the public health regulation are those who deliver essential goods such as medical products, those who work in the trade or transportation sector, those who work in emergency services and those who cross the border regularly for work in areas such as health care or critical infrastructure.
The Canada-U.S. border remains closed to non-essential travel until at least Aug. 21, although it is possible that mandate will be extended.
The ban on discretionary travel was first introduced in March.
With files from CTV News Toronto's John Musselman