Botched border measures an insult to Canadians

The first responsibility of a government during a pandemic is, of course, to do everything in its power to keep the public safe.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/12/2021 (250 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The first responsibility of a government during a pandemic is, of course, to do everything in its power to keep the public safe.

That goes without saying, and the vast majority of Canadians understand the need for the restrictions, regulations and requirements that have been imposed, both federally and provincially, in order to limit the spread of successive waves and variants of the COVID-19 virus.

Governments have asked for public buy-in on vaccination as the most effective means of fighting the pandemic scourge, and have asked citizens to submit to varying levels of limitation on social interaction, commercial activity and travel, depending on the ebbs and flows of COVID-19 threat levels and associated burdens on the health-care system.

What has been asked has created considerable hardship, for individuals, families and businesses. But notwithstanding the clusters of misinformed and/or misguided malcontents who continue to deny the pandemic’s seriousness and defy government orders aimed at protecting them (in their case, mostly from themselves), the public has for the most part done its part by following the advice and adhering to the rules.

With its expectation of compliance, however, comes an obligation for governments to provide the public with clear, accurate, readily accessible and easily decipherable information that will allow them to make the right choices while fully understanding why they’re making them.

The federal government’s recent handling of new restrictions and requirements related to travel out of and back into Canada, prompted by the emergence of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, has been an absolute master class in how NOT to impose measures and inform the public.

Media reporting this week has been awash in stories of Canadians left in limbo by sudden changes, mixed messages, abrupt app upgrades and clear miscommunication between the federal government and the Canada Border Services Agency.

From reports of travellers arriving from Africa — the target of specific new restrictions owing to the initial identification of the Omicron variant in South Africa and Botswana — being assigned to quarantine hotels without adequate access to food or laundry facilities, to stories of Manitoba travellers who followed all government instructions for re-entry only to find the ArriveCAN app had undergone an unannounced update, disabling the version they were using and relegating them to 14-day forced self-isolation, the handling of travel-related restrictions and requirements has been nothing short of chaotic.

Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said earlier this week he has advised CBSA personnel to use more discretion when dealing with people who have problems with the ArriveCAN app but can provide hard-copy details of the documents required for border re-entry. But problems have persisted, and those ordered into self-isolation prior to the minister’s directive have been offered no relief from their unwarranted restrictions.

Canadians deserve better, particularly with the holiday season upon us and long-deferred winter travels awaiting. In continuing to follow public-health directives, the vast majority have demonstrated an understanding and acceptance of the reality that the ever-evolving nature of the pandemic will require different levels of restriction at different times, and that this constant state of flux should be embraced as the “new normal” of pandemic-era life.

But patience is not an inexhaustable commodity, and if elected leadership hopes to maintain public engagement in the pandemic fight, it must respect citizens’ willing acceptance of the burden by not adding the unnecessary weight of confusion, botched communication and ham-handed enforcement.

Keep us safe, first and foremost. But also do us the courtesy of keeping us fully informed so we feel supported and respected in continuing to do our part.

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