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Canada bringing back mandatory random testing of travellers arriving at main airports

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By Laura Osman in Ottawa

The federal government announced plans Thursday to start randomly testing travellers at Canada’s four main airports for COVID-19 again next week, but intends to move the actual swabbing off-site.

Ottawa paused the random testing of vaccinated travellers entering Canada by air on June 11, while it worked on moving the tests themselves locations outside of airports.

The government now says mandatory tests on randomly selected passengers will resume on July 19 for fully vaccinated travellers arriving at the Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and Toronto airports.

All tests, for vaccinated, unvaccinated and partially vaccinated travellers, will be completed outside of airports.

The government initially paused the tests while facing a barrage of criticism from tourism and air travel industry groups that felt federal public health measures were responsible for the chaotic state of Canada’s airports.

At the time, The Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable all but begged federal ministers to lift the test requirement permanently, claiming the “outdated rules” were causing serious delays at customs, missed flights, hours-long lineups and soured Canada’s reputation.

In a statement Thursday, the roundtable called the move to resume testing “unfairly targets Canada’s tourism sector and negatively impacts Canadian and international travellers.”

“The reimposition of these measures is an unnecessary and unhelpful step backward that continues to put Canada out of alignment with its international partners and singles out air travel as the only consumer activity in the country with stringent health measures.”

Airport chaos has continued in the weeks since the testing was suspended.

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said Thursday the tests were suspended because the government realized they were adding to the congestion at the airports, but he was always clear they would resume off-site.

Deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo said the random tests are an important part of Canada’s strategy to detect new variants coming in to the country.

“It’s important to know about this in order to formulate other recommendations,” Njoo said in French at a press conference where he announced the approval of a pediatric COVID-19 vaccine.

Chief public health office Dr. Theresa Tam has said in the past that the airport tests act as an “early warning system,” for new variants.

Conservative party critics called the government’s decision to resume random tests a “doubling down on the decision to impose additional pandemic theatre.”

“Only now, to avoid the image of chaos at airports, travellers will face the additional inconvenience of being forced to travel off-site to get their tests,” several critics, including health critic Michael Barrett and transport critic Melissa Lantsman, said in a joint statement

The Conservatives say the Liberals have not been able to explain the scientific justification for their pandemic restrictions, especially the random testing of fully-vaccinated travellers.

The testing will be completed either at an in-person appointment at select testing locations or via a virtual appointment for a swab test.

Travellers who are not fully vaccinated must test on both the first and eighth days of their mandatory 14-day quarantine, unless they are exempt.

Fully vaccinated travellers will be randomly selected for testing upon arrival at the four biggest airports, and sent to an off-site location for the test to be completed.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 14, 2022.

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COVID-19

Public hearings in Emergencies Act inquiry to start in September

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OTTAWA — The inquiry into Ottawa’s unprecedented use of the Emergencies Act during protests in February will start its public hearings next month.

The Public Order Emergency Commission announced today that it expects the hearings to run from Sept. 19 until Oct. 28 at Library and Archives Canada in downtown Ottawa.

Commissioner Paul Rouleau said in a statement that he intends to hold the government to account and wants the inquiry to be as “open and transparent” as possible.

Hearings will be livestreamed online and members of the public will have opportunities to share their views, with a final report expected early next year.

Parties to the inquiry including “Freedom Convoy” organizers, police forces and all three levels of government are expected to testify and contribute documentary evidence on the invocation of the act in February.

The federal Liberals made the move amid border blockades and the occupation of downtown Ottawa by protesters demonstrating against COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 15, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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Convoy Lawyer details how trucks were moving BEFORE PM Trudeau invoked Emergency Measures Act

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CBC news is reporting that court documents indicate “On the night before Justin Trudeau took the historic step of invoking the Emergencies Act during last February’s Freedom Convoy occupation of Ottawa, the prime minister’s national security and intelligence adviser told cabinet there was “potential for a breakthrough,” “

This has come to light thanks to court challenges from civil liberties groups who claim the federal government went too far by invoking the Emergencies Measures Act.

Various media outlets are reporting it was unclear whether the truckers would hold up their end of the deal negotiated with the City of Ottawa.  However an interview by commentator Viva Frei with Keith Wilson, lead lawyer for the Freedom Convoy makes it clear, trucks were already moving before the act was invoked.

The link above will take you to the youtube page of Viva Frei for a fascinating full length interview with Keith Wilson who talks about his 19 days in downtown Ottawa during the Freedom Convoy where he lead a team of lawyers representing the leaders of the trucker convoy in their dealings with the police, and the City of Ottawa.

Below is an 18 minute segment of that interview which focusses on the days immediately prior to the invocation of the Emergencies Measures Act.  Wilson details how when tensions were building, he tapped former Newfoundland Premier Brian Peckford who helped to make a critical link to the office of the Mayor of Ottawa.  He goes on to share how the early meetings lead to an agreement to move all the trucks out of the downtown core to Wellington (in front of Parliament Hill), another road nearby, or a couple of areas on the outskirts of Ottawa.  The truckers would then have been bussed daily to Parliament Hill where they could join the ongoing demonstration.

As you’ll see in this video, the trucks were already moving before PM Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergency Measures Act.

 

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