OTTAWA — Siblings, grandparents and adult children of Canadians and permanent residents are among those who will soon be exempt from COVID-19 border restrictions.
The expansion of who can enter Canada comes after increasing public pressure on the Liberal government to show more compassion to families separated during an increasingly stressful time.
Those who don’t directly qualify under the expanded family rules will be able to apply to enter for compassionate reasons.
The specifics around how compassionate entry and the expanded family list will work are expected to be announced shortly.
International students are also being granted more flexibility and starting later this month will be admitted if their place of learning has been identified by a provincial government as having a COVID-19 plan in place.
At the same time, however, the government announced it will beef up efforts to monitor travellers who are required to quarantine for a full 14 days after arriving in Canada.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week that community spread of COVID-19, not incoming travellers, is currently the challenge in Canada.
He said measures to keep Canadians safe can be implemented and improved while showing more compassion for divided families who don’t pose a risk to public health.
Canada first closed its borders to all but a short list of essential workers in the spring in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19.
After an outcry, the government opened the gates a crack to immediate family members of citizens and permanent residents, but many other family members had been left off the list of exemptions.
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair has hinted that the closure of the Canada-US border to all non-essential travellers could last for months, given a spike in new cases on both sides.
The restriction, under an agreement between Ottawa and Washington, was first imposed in March and is set to expire on October 21.
But Blair said it would likely remain in place until the Covid-19 conditions in both countries “change very substantively”.