‘Cautious’ Canada To Relax Some Travel Restrictions

Toronto entrance
Credit: DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images

Canada’s government will open its borders to vaccinated citizens and certain other eligible travelers starting July 5 but has not moved off quarantine requirements for foreign travelers or a broad recommendation against non-essential travel. 

“The Government of Canada is taking a responsible, precautionary approach at the border by continually monitoring available data and scientific evidence to protect the health and safety of Canadians,” the country’s health ministry said in a June 21 announcement. “These cautious adjustments are now possible because of the successes of the vaccine roll out in Canada and Canadians following public health measures.”  

Travelers currently eligible to come into Canada, including citizens, permanent residents and some international students, will no longer be required to quarantine or take a coronavirus test eight days after arrival. Instead, they must provide electronic proof of a vaccine approved by Canada via the county’s ArriveCAN portal prior to arriving. Their documentation will be reviewed at the border, and they will be tested upon arrival. 

While the news could help stimulate some demand, airlines expressed frustration at the lack of a comprehensive plan that includes more international travelers. 

“Easing quarantine restrictions for fully vaccinated Canadians and eligible travelers is a step in the right direction, but falls far short of the recommendations provided by Health Canada’s Expert Advisory Panel report released last month,” said Mike McNaney, president and CEO of the National Airlines Council of Canada, which represents the country’s largest airlines. “The government continues to refuse to provide Canadians with a clear and comprehensive restart plan outlining how measures from the report will be adopted.”

Canada’s changes adopt some of the recommendations in the panel report, such as eliminating mandatory quarantine upon arrival, which travelers had to pay for. But it stopped short of a more comprehensive plan the travel industry wants

“Unlike many other countries, including our G7 partners, Canada has yet to provide a clear restart plan outlining when and how major travel and border restrictions will be removed, in particular for fully vaccinated travelers from foreign countries, and how the panel’s recommendations will be adopted,” McNaney said. “As vaccination programs increase rapidly and jurisdictions around the world provide consumers and industry with a clear path forward, we must do the same. Countries that successfully implement a science and data–based testing and quarantine policy will not only protect public health; they will also drive their overall domestic recovery and take jobs and investment from countries that do not. We must get moving now.”

Canada’s announcement comes on the heels of the country’s decision, along with U.S. counterparts, to extend bans on all but essential border crossings through July 21. The restrictions have been in place since March 2020 and have all but wiped out transborder airline demand. 

In addition, Canada’s temporary routing of all international flights through four airports—Montréal-Trudeau International Airport, Toronto Pearson International Airport, Calgary International Airport and Vancouver International Airport—will continue. 

“This is the first phase of our precautionary approach to easing Canada’s border measures,” Health Minister Dominic LeBlanc said. “At this time, we are not opening up our borders any further. The Government of Canada continues to work globally through the World Health Organization as well as closely with the provinces, territories, Indigenous partners and American authorities on moving forward toward reopening in a way that is safe for both countries.” 

Sean Broderick

Senior Air Transport & Safety Editor Sean Broderick covers aviation safety, MRO, and the airline business from Aviation Week Network's Washington, D.C. office.