VICTORIA — B.C. Premier John Horgan stated last week that the province was getting legal advice on a possible inter-provincial travel ban.
The issue of inter-provincial travel bans has been discussed on many occasions as a measure that could help contain the spread of COVID-19. In his statement, Horgan noted it’s become clear such a ban is “of public interest” and that he wants to “put to rest” whether or not such a measure is a possibility.
The British Columbia Hotel Association (BCHA) issued a release on behalf of a coalition of tourism-industry associations decrying such a ban, noting a ban on inter-provincial and non-essential travel would further cripple the tourism-and-hospitality industry.
The Tourism Industry Association of B.C. also commissioned a legal opinion, which states a travel ban would be difficult to implement because the Supreme Court of Canada has held that Canadians’ mobility rights are “among the most cherished rights of citizenship” that are “fundamental to nationhood.” It also noted that the government would be required to justify any infringement of those rights by showing they are carefully tailored to solve a real problem that other health measures that do not restrict Canadians’ rights cannot achieve.
The BCHA statement clarified: “the coalition acknowledges the outstanding work by government and frontline health-care workers to manage the pandemic, and stresses that it is not advocating to irresponsibly open the province to all travel at this time. However, industry leaders point out that since the start of the pandemic, the tourism and hospitality industry has supported provincial COVID-19 protocols and prioritized health and safety by developing and implementing extensive health-and-safety measures to protect guests, employees and residents. The coalition also says that the industry is keen to work with government on solutions to address rogue behaviour and further protect the public regardless of where people come from or reside.”
“We implore the province not to pursue an outright travel ban that would cause undue hardship on businesses, the workforce and our province’s stellar reputation as a welcome and safe place to visit,” says Ingrid Jarrett, president & CEO, BCHA. “While now is not the time to encourage non-essential travel, banning visitors from other parts of Canada sends a strong and false message that visitors are to blame for rising transmission rates. Conversely, we need to work together with government to convey the message that people visiting B.C. for whatever purpose must commit to our strict health-and-safety protocols.”