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Prime Minister’s remarks updating Canadians on the COVID-19 situation and new border measures

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Hello, everyone.

I want to start today by talking about our new measures concerning travel and Canadian travellers.

Before getting into the details, I’d like to clarify some points and provide a few reminders.

The situation is complex, and it’s important for everyone to understand the facts.

First, for nearly a year, Canada’s borders have been closed to foreign travellers.

What this means is that since last March, a French or U.S. citizen, for example, cannot come into Canada for non-essential reasons.

In addition, we have a strict, mandatory two‑week quarantine that is monitored, and we now require a negative test before returning to the country.

Keep in mind that the United States only just announced measures similar to the ones we implemented last March.

Second, according to the available data, we know that less than 2 per cent of COVID-19 cases are linked to Canadians returning to Canada.

This is proof that our existing measures are working.

However, as I’ve said before, even one case is one case too many.

Especially when we now have to consider new variants of the virus.

Today, we are announcing new additional measures to help prevent these variants from getting into Canada.

Know that our experts and scientists are very closely monitoring the evolution of these variants around the world. We understand your concern and we’re taking this situation extremely seriously.

And know that we will always act to protect you.

We all need to do our part to keep ourselves, our loved ones, and our neighbours safe.

That’s every person, every business working together.

And now Canada’s air carriers are stepping up to protect Canadians, too.

The government and Canada’s main airlines have agreed to suspend service to sun destinations right away.

Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing, and Air Transat are cancelling air service to all Caribbean destinations and Mexico starting this Sunday up until April 30.

They have agreed to be part of the solution to protect the health and safety of Canadians.

They will be making arrangements with their customers who are currently on a trip in these regions to organize their return flights.

I’d like to acknowledge the leadership of Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing, and Air Transat in making this commitment to suspend flights and be such strong partners in the fight to curb the spread of COVID-19 and its variants.

We appreciate the work the Canadian airlines and their frontline workers have done to make air travel safer, and to bring Canadians home when this pandemic struck last spring.

With the challenges we currently face with COVID-19, both here at home and abroad, we all agree that now is just not the time to be flying.

By putting in place these tough measures now, we can look forward to a better time, when we can all plan those vacations.

Our government is committed to the safe restart and recovery of the Canadian travel and tourism sector as soon as conditions improve, ideally later this year.

As part of this effort, the Government of Canada has committed to work with the major airlines on the future relationship between testing and quarantine requirements.

This will enable the safe, gradual return to international air travel, grounded in science and evidence.

On top of these flight cancellations, we’re bringing in other measures as well.

Starting next week, all international passenger flights must land only at the following four airports – Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal.    

In addition to the pre-boarding test we already require, as soon as possible in February, we will be introducing mandatory PCR testing at the airport for people returning to Canada.

Travellers will then have to wait for up to three days at an approved hotel for their test results, at their own expense which is expected to be more than $2,000.

Those with negative test results will then be able to quarantine at home under significantly increased surveillance and enforcement.

Those with positive tests will be immediately required to quarantine in designated government facilities to make sure they’re not carrying variants of potential concern.

We will also, in the coming weeks, be requiring non-essential travellers to show a negative test before entry at the land border with the U.S., and we’re working to stand up additional testing requirements for land travel.

There are a number of legal, logistical, and practical reasons why decisions like this shouldn’t be taken lightly or made hastily.

We will always maintain a rigorous approach to make effective, informed decisions that take into consideration all the factors and consequences.

You know that since the beginning of this crisis, my priority has been to protect Canadians.

We need to continue to work together.

People don’t want to see political squabbles on the back of the pandemic.

As for vaccines, on Wednesday, I spoke with the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, who confirmed to me that the measures taken by Europe are not impacting deliveries of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to Canada.

We learned yesterday that there will be a delay affecting many countries, including Canada, for the next shipment of the Moderna vaccine, which arrives next week.

We will receive 78 per cent of the expected amount, translating to 180,000 doses.

I want to be clear.

We will always share the most accurate information we have, but in the short-term, those numbers can fluctuate.

But as global production continues to pick up, there will be more stability in the system.

And, most importantly, this temporary delay doesn’t change the fact that we will still receive 2 million doses of the Moderna vaccine as planned before the end of March, as we’ve been saying for months.

On vaccines, I had another call with the CEO of Pfizer, Dr. Albert Bourla, who confirmed yet again that we are still on track to receive 4 million doses of their vaccine before the end of March.

We also talked about Canada receiving more doses ahead of schedule starting in the spring.

We’ll have more details to share on that next week.   

Production lines around the globe are adapting to high demand from every country.

We’re focused day in and day out on getting a vaccine to every Canadian who wants one by the end of September.

And we are very much on track to do just that.  

Since the beginning of this pandemic, our priority has been protecting you and your family.

And just like that means securing vaccines, it also means making sure that kids are safe at school.

I’ve had the chance to drop in on virtual classrooms across the country.

From Edmonton to Miramichi, I’ve been reminded about just how resilient kids are. 

But that doesn’t mean this isn’t tough for them too.

Emily at St. Martha’s in Kingston told me that school is hard these days because of COVID.

To Emily and her friends in Mrs. Ows’s class, and every kid out there listening – you’re doing a great job.

So keep it up.

With this second wave, your schools need support to keep you safe, protect your teachers, and make sure you and your friends can continue learning wherever you are. 

So today, I have some important news to share with you.

We’ve now reached agreements with all provinces and territories for the second instalment of federal funding through the Safe Return to Class Fund.

This $1 billion investment will go towards everything from more sanitizer, to better ventilation for classrooms, to support for online learning and remote classes.

Of course, education is under provincial jurisdiction.

And like I told the premiers when we announced the Safe Return to Class Fund last year, we will always respect that principle.

The provinces and territories will be able to use the support we’re providing through this fund to help schools, teachers, and students during this difficult time.

Already, the first half of the money invested in the fall has made a big difference for students and staff across the country.

So to teachers, support staff, students, volunteers across the country: 

You’re doing a remarkable job.

The lessons you’re teaching our kids – resilience, critical thinking, compassion – will serve them and our country for the rest of their lives.

Things will get back to normal.

And until then, we will keep having your back.

In Canada, regardless of your age, where you live or who you are, everyone deserves to feel safe.

Last September, the tragic death of Joyce Echaquan reminded us how much systemic racism is still present in our country.

It’s unacceptable that there are Indigenous community members who face discrimination in our health care systems.

Yesterday marked the conclusion of a second national dialogue during which participants renewed their determination to eliminate systemic racism in health care settings.

During these exchanges, Indigenous partners, along with stakeholders and representatives from the health and education sectors, provinces, and territories, had the opportunity to speak and share possible solutions to improve our institutions.

I’d like to recognize the work of Minister Miller, who yesterday as well launched the start of discussions to co-develop distinctions-based Indigenous health legislation, in order to ensure high-quality health care for all First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.

It is long past time that we put an end to all forms of discrimination and racism in our health care systems in Canada, and we need to continue to work together to do that once and for all.

Just like we need to end systemic racism in our health care systems, we also have to address gender-based violence in our country.

Far too many women and girls were already facing violence, and this pandemic has only made things worse.

Since the beginning of this crisis, we’ve provided $100 million to organizations and shelters in support of victims of gender-based violence.

And there’s still so much more work to be done.

Last week, ministers from different orders of government responsible for the status of women endorsed the Joint Declaration for a Canada free of Gender-Based Violence.

This joint declaration affirms a common vision to put a stop to violence against women and girls, and is an important step in developing a national action plan to end gender-based violence in Canada.   

I want to thank Minister Monsef, and all ministers involved, for their important work.

While we work to end gender-based violence, we also have to continue to fight all other forms of violence and hate.

Four years ago tonight, an anti-Muslim terrorist attack at the Centre culturel islamique de Québec took the lives of six people and seriously injured 19 others.

To the families and loved ones of the victims, and to members of Muslim communities across Canada:

I know that it still hurts.

On behalf of all Canadians, we stand with you in solidarity.

We are all united in defending our values of diversity and inclusion.

Our actions and our words matter.

Racist comments, hate speech, troll insults, disinformation – whether it’s online or elsewhere – have real consequences.

We need to be aware of that, and we need to continue to act.

We’ve taken a number of concrete actions in recent years:

We’ve made investments to protect Canadians in their places of worship and to ensure the safety of at‑risk communities.

We’ve launched initiatives to combat online hate.  

And last year, we also banned models of assault-style firearms to prevent such shootings from happening again.

What happened four years ago tonight in Quebec City was an unthinkable tragedy.

We cannot – and we will not – ever forget.

That’s why January 29 will officially become the National Day of Remembrance of the Quebec City Mosque Attack and Action against Islamophobia.

Every year on this day, we will honour the victims, and we will recommit ourselves to fighting the discrimination and hate that took them from us.

No one should ever be afraid because of the way they pray.

Not in Canada.

And not anywhere around the world.

Today and always, we must stand strong and united. Because that will always be our path forward.

I think that’s something we’ve all been reminded of over the last year, as Canadians have come together to fight this once-in-a-generation crisis.

Cases are slowly decreasing because everyone is doing their part.

So thank you.

And keep it up.

I also want to thank the many people who are making sure that no one gets left behind, no matter where they live. Together, we’ve overcome the vast geography and the tough winter of this country to get more than 10 per cent of the adult population of the territories already vaccinated.

It just goes to show that we have the plan, and the team, to get this done.

More vaccines are on the way.

Spring is coming.

And together we’re going to get through this.