Rules Meant to Protect Could Kill – Vulnerable Canadians Need Exemption from Travel Rules

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Pandemic travel rules are threatening the lives of Canadians who must routinely travel across the border to receive life-saving medical treatment.  

My sister-in-law Kim Muise is a 41-year-old mother of two young children. She is battling stage 4 cancer and the regular life-saving immunotherapy treatment she receives is unavailable in Canada. Her Canadian Oncologist recommended she take part in a clinical trial in the United States and facilitated her participation in it. Kim must travel from Vancouver to Los Angeles on a strict 28 day schedule for treatment. The treatments are working but the ever-changing travel testing and quarantine rules threaten Kim's access to them by imposing impossible-to-meet timelines and exorbitant costs.   

Kim is not alone. Many Canadians participate in clinical trials which have strict parameters and require their presence at clinics for treatment on specific schedules – some are as short as once-every-14-days. Missing a single treatment would result in the participant being kicked out of the trial and permanently losing access to life-saving treatment. As restrictions stiffen, control over the ability meet travel requirements has been torn from these patients’ grasp. Consider the requirement to take a COVID test prior to travel while simultaneously still being under strict quarantine from the travel required for previous treatment. Or still being under quarantine when also due to be on a plane. The dread caused by such issues and the ever-shifting-rules is seriously undermining the mental and physical health of these already vulnerable Canadians who are unable to even go for a walk outside in this time of crisis.  

Ironically the travel rules which are meant to protect the public health, actually put these vulnerable Canadians at greater risk of contracting COVID. To minimize the risks posed by these essential trips, vulnerable Canadians like Kim normally spend as little time as possible away – some spending less than 24 hours.  The new travel rules increase their risk of exposure as they will have to attend testing facilities and wait, sometimes for days, for approved COVID test results to come in for their return home to Canada. As the approved COVID tests are not rapid, these vulnerable Canadians will go for testing as soon as they land abroad so that they will have their results as soon as possible for their return trip. Consider the utter uselessness of such tests, which by the way are very expensive and not covered by medical as these individuals are asymptomatic of COVID. Additionally, on returning to Canada these vulnerable Canadians will have to quarantine in a hotel, in and around those who have demonstrated their utter disregard for the health of others by choosing to travel for pleasure during a global pandemic.  COVID has been transmitted in hotels and is present in testing facilities.   

Trips for Kim and others like her are not for pleasure, they are repetitive, onerous and frightening. They are essential and meticulously scheduled by the clinic to provide care and measure the progress of cutting-edge treatments. Participation in these trials advances medical research knowledge and ultimately benefits us all.  

This is a group of Canadians that is extremely protective of their personal health and avoids any and all unnecessary risks because of their immunocompromised situation. Contracting COVID would not only be disastrous to their health, but would prevent them from traveling, thereby ending their life-saving treatment. 

The Canadian government has the power to grant exemptions to these travel rules and it has. In fact, more than 6.3 million travelers have entered Canada on exemptions including those coming to Canada to receive essential medical services. It is shockingly unfair that there is no equivalent exemption for Canadians who need to leave Canada for life-saving treatment. 

Please support an exemption for Canadians like Kim who must travel to receive life-saving medical care. 

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