OTTAWA— Thousands of foreign nationals will be able to reunite with their families in Canada after the government in Ottawa moved Monday to exempt them from its travel ban.
The border was closed to all non-essential travellers in mid-March to try to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.
In late May, a deal was reached with the United States to extend the closure of their shared border but still allow a select few, including health care workers, to cross back and forth until at least June 21.
“This is an incredibly difficult time to be apart from a spouse or a child or mom and dad,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters.
“We hear that,” he said. “That’s why we’re bringing in a limited exemption to allow immediate family members of citizens or permanent residents to come to Canada.”
Canadian media reported several cases of families being separated by the border, including an American looking to join his Canadian wife in Canada for the birth of their first child.
The exemption is to take effect at 11:59 pm Monday (0359 GMT Tuesday) and applies to non-Canadian spouses, children, parents or guardians of Canadian citizens or permanent residents, the Canada Border Services Agency said in a statement.
The travellers must not have or show symptoms of the COVID-19 illness, must self-quarantine for two weeks upon arrival, and plan to stay in Canada for at least 15 days.
Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said the measure will not mean people will be allowed into the country for a weekend visit, for example, “to attend a personal or social gathering”.
“The purpose of this measure is not to allow people to come and go into Canada whenever they like, but rather to help Canadian families reunite during this unprecedented time,” he said.
Anyone travelling from abroad will also still be required to obtain the usual documents, including visas or electronic travel authorisation.