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Monday,  June 24, 2024 12:03 PM 

Hotel quarantine: Justice Centre sues federal government for "forcible confinement"

Hotel quarantine: Justice Centre sues federal government for "forcible confinement"
Traveller Steve Duesing stuck in hotel quarantine. (The Justice Centre/
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

The Justice Centre has filed legal action against the federal government for what it says will forcibly confine Canadians returning from travel in hotels, at a high cost, even when they are in possession of a negative PCR test.

The Justice Centre is a legal organization and federally-registered charity that "defends citizens" fundamental freedoms under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms," according to its website

In a Feb. 17 release, the organization said it sent a legal demand letter to Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra on Jan. 29, 2021 warning it would sue in Federal Court if the government proceeded with its threat to confine returning Canadians at "secret locations, even those who had already tested negative for COVID." 

It should be noted that the hotel locations, as of Friday, Feb. 19, are not a secret anymore as the government posted its list of approved locations on its website

Outrage from travelling Canadians

Still, the Justice Centre's actions calls the legality of mandatory hotel quarantines into question.  

The Justice Centre said it represents 13 individual applicants, including Steve Duesing, (featured in the picture accompanying this story) in the comprehensive new lawsuit and is advising dozens more. 

READ MORE: "No to Quarantine Prison Hotels": CCF launches petition against travel requirement

The non-profit law firm said it has received thousands of emails of outrage from travelling Canadians since Ottawa first announced that citizens, regardless of their reason for travel, "would be forced to have a COVID PCR test in order to board an airplane to return to Canada, then be forced to take another PCR test on arrival, and then be forcibly confined for up to three days while waiting for a negative test result, and also be forced to pay $2,000." 

Federal officials have clarified that the cost of staying in a quarantine hotel will vary by location. 

The Canadian Press, in fact, reported on Friday that quarantine rates are far lower that originally stated, with nightly rates at Toronto's Alt Hotel Toronto Airport and the Sheraton Gateway Hotel (two participating hotels) starting at $339 and $319 respectively. 

"Held unlawfully" 

Justice Centre lawyer Sayeh Hassan noted that Canadians travel for many reasons and the Charter guarantees the fundamental right to enter and leave Canada. 

“Prime Minister Trudeau has arbitrarily made special exceptions for Olympic athletes and their support teams, for example,” noted Ms. Hassan in the release. 

“Citizens are being held unlawfully despite not having been convicted of any offence, not having had access to a lawyer, and not having appeared before a judge. Law enforcement officers are apparently refusing to inform family members of where their loved ones are being held. This outrageous policy aligns with the world’s most repressive and undemocratic regimes and is totally unacceptable,” added Ms. Hassan.

READ MORE: Ottawa releases list of government-authorized quarantine hotels

“Quarantine, particularly of healthy or asymptomatic individuals, is the functional equivalent of house arrest and the Justice Centre will not allow it to continue unchallenged.”

In a similar action, the Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) recently launched a petition, entitled "No to Quarantine Prison Hotels," to oppose Ottawa's mandatory hotel measure, which takes effect Feb. 22. 

In its view, hotel quarantine does not constitute a legitimate limit on the rights of Canadians.

“Our Charter explicitly protects the right of Canadians to enter, remain and leave Canada. The imposition of these 'quarantine prison hotels' is a clear violation of the right of Canadians to enter their own country," stated Christine Van Geyn, director of litigation at the CCF.

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