August 27, 2020 by Jason Contant
ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – People who own property in Newfoundland and Labrador but who don’t live there full-time can apply to enter the province next week.
Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said Wednesday that the travel restriction imposed on non-residents who own cabins and second homes in Newfoundland and Labrador will be lifted on Aug. 31.
Property owners will have to apply for an exemption to the order prohibiting people outside Atlantic Canada from entering the province. She said they will have to apply with proof of home ownership and will be required to isolate for 14 days.
Fitzgerald said it’s safe to accept the travellers now because officials have strengthened health-care capacity and have learned more about COVID-19 mitigation since the travel ban was put in place in May.
The province defended the travel ban this month during a Supreme Court challenge that alleged the order violates mobility rights and falls outside the province’s jurisdiction.
The government has said it was necessary to prevent travellers from bringing contagion into the province, which has reported fewer than 10 COVID-19 infections since the ban came into effect.
A proposed class action lawsuit seeking damages on behalf of property owners also alleges the ban is contrary to mobility rights guaranteed under the charter.
A statement of claim issued in provincial Supreme Court in May alleged the government was negligent with the policy because it ought to have known it was unconstitutional and would cause damages to the people in the suit.
Geoff Budden, one of the lawyers on the case, said Wednesday the exemption is an improvement but the overall policy is still problematic and the government could change it at any time.
“It came out of the blue, it’s now sort of disappeared into the blue and it may re-emerge,” he said by phone.
“The problem remains that the government is asserting its authority to control travel in a way that we believe the law simply doesn’t permit.” Budden said people have already suffered damages because they were not able to travel and use their properties for the entire summer of 2020.
There are approximately 100 people in the class action so far, he said. The next step will be a certification application.
Feature image by iStock.com/jimfeng