Police across the country will soon be enforcing the government’s mandatory quarantine laws, including visiting the homes of newly arrived travellers to ensure they’re following the rules.
RCMP said in a news release Friday that the police force had been asked by the Public Health Agency of Canada to help enforce the Quarantine Act Order, which was declared by the federal Health Minister Patty Hadju on March 25.
Under the order, anyone arriving into Canada – including snowbirds and those being repatriated by the government – must stay in self-isolation for 14 days upon arrival.
“Choosing to ignore mandatory isolation and quarantine orders is not only against the law, it’s also putting citizens, first responders, health professionals and the most vulnerable at risk of exposure to the virus,” said RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki.
House checks will be be implemented only in cases where federal health officials have done initial verification of compliance by phone, text or e-mail and determine further verification by police is necessary.
Those who violate the order face fines up to $750,000 and six months in prison, while “willfully or recklessly contravening this Act or the regulations could be liable for a fine of up to $1,000,000 or imprisonment of up to three years, or to both,” the RCMP warned.
Police said that arrests would be a last resort “based on the circumstances and the officer’s risk assessment.” Instead, the officer can issue those charged with a notice or summons requiring them to appear in court.
Many people – including provincial leaders – have been critical of the federal government’s rollout of screening measures at airports, after arriving travellers reported little to no screening while others reported that they knew people who weren’t following the mandated self-isolation protocols.
Earlier this week, B.C. Premier John Horgan unveiled new measures for those arriving in the province from international flights, including a mandatory self-isolation form which travellers would have to produce in order to be allowed through security.
If the plan isn’t acceptable to officials, travellers will be sent to a designated quarantine facility for 14 days under the powers of the federal Quarantine Act, he said.
During his Friday briefing, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hinted that current orders and provisions to reduce the spread of the virus could be relaxed in the summer so long as people remain vigilant and physically distance now.
“If we do things right, this will be the first and worst phase that we go through as a country in terms of COVID-19,” Trudeau said.
“It is possible we may be out of that wave this summer, and at that point we will be able to talk about loosening up some the rules that are in place.”
Trudeau has said that Canadians should expect the ongoing orders to become the norm for the next 12 to 18 months, or until a vaccine is developed.