Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Around 1,300 national exemptions to COVID-19 border restrictions given out: officials

Around 1,300 national exemptions to COVID-19 border restrictions given out: officials

OTTAWA — Immigration officials say the federal government granted 1,300 national interest exemptions during the COVID-19 pandemic to allow people into Canada who don’t qualify under current border restrictions.

The Canadian border has been closed since March to all but a specific list of people, albeit one that has grown longer as the pandemic has continued.

Among those allowed in are essential workers and certain family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents.

Broadly, those whose travel is considered optional or discretionary aren’t allowed in, but exemptions can be made if certain ministers sign off on the plan.

Among those who have benefited: pro hockey and baseball players, though basketball players were recently denied.

The exemption has also been used to admit high-profile U.S. executives, which has prompted heated debate over who, exactly, gets to access the exemptions and why.

The number of exemptions that have been granted so far was disclosed at a House of Commons immigration committee meeting Wednesday.

Federal Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino was pressed by MPs over all the various ways the pandemic has hammered the immigration system.

He was grilled on what appears to be a breakdown in a promise to review, within 14 days, applications for cross-border travel by family members, a policy announced with much fanfare earlier this fall after months of pressure by affected families.

NDP MP Jenny Kwan said she was aware of at least 100 people who have not had their files approved within that 14 days. Conservative MP Raquel Dancho said she had a list of her own.

Mendicino promised to review the cases the two MPs mentioned.

“Our goal here is to reunite as many families as possible,” he said.

Kwan also pointed to the thousands of people stuck overseas with expired documents that keep needing to be renewed, but who can’t get that to happen. She also mentioned the situation of some postgraduate students in Canada facing a similar problem.

Mendicino said no student will get expelled because their permits have expired.

“We recognize that COVID-19 has caused disruption,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2020.

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Mountain Cree Traditional Band headquarters in Mirror, Alta. has been the target of theft and vandalism. (Photo submitted)
Vandals attack: Artifacts worth $1M gone from central Alberta museum

AWNTB says not enough been done to deter crime in Mirror, Alta.

Eleven more Albertans die from COVID-19

There were 739 people in hospital, 120 in ICU on Monday

Red Deer city transit will return to full capacity this weekend. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Red Deer Transit increasing frequency of buses beginning Wednesday

Many routes will run on 30-minute intervals

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre can accommodate up to 20 patients requiring a ventilator, says Alberta Health Services. File photo by Advocate staff
Man critical of wife’s treatment at Red Deer hospital

An Alberta man says the recent treatment of his wife at the… Continue reading

Lacombe is looking at its options for reclaiming sewage lagoons that are no longer needed. Vesta Energy Ltd. has signed a deal to use three lagoons to store water for fracking.
Map from City of Lacombe
Energy company to use former Lacombe sewage lagoons to store fracking water

Vesta Energy Ltd. will pay Lacombe more than $100,000 a year in 20-year deal

Dwayne Buckle, 40 of Red Deer finished a 1,638-kilometre walk, in honour of his family. The 12-week, 82 day-journey wrapped up in Port Hardy, B.C. on Monday. Facebook photo
Red Deer man completes 1,638 km hike for cancer research

Dwayne Buckle, a Red Deer firefighter returned home Friday after his 12-week journey

World Juniors’ referee Mike Langin makes a called during the Canada vs. Slovakia at the 2021 World Junior Championship at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Dec. 27, 2020. (Photo by Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada)
Former Sylvan Lake man lives his dream at World Junior Championships

Mike Langin was one the 25 Canadian officials who worked during the tournament

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Blanchet’s choice to block critics on Twitter limits free speech: experts

OTTAWA — Dozens of people say Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet has… Continue reading

Jimmy Melvin Jr. is escorted from Nova Scotia provincial court in Halifax on Monday, July 20, 2015. One of the most notorious crime figures in Nova Scotia has been declared a dangerous offender. Melvin Jr. was handed an indeterminate sentence today in Nova Scotia Supreme Court. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
‘Real and present danger’: Nova Scotia crime figure deemed dangerous offender

HALIFAX — One of the most notorious crime figures in Nova Scotia… Continue reading

In this April 13, 2020, photo provided by TC Energy, construction contractors for TC Energy are seen installing a section of the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline at the U.S.-Canada border north of Glasgow, Mont. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-TC Energy via AP
An outright ‘No’: Biden’s Day 1 Keystone XL kibosh bodes ill for Canada-U.S. ties

WASHINGTON — North America’s perennial pipeline debate erupted anew Monday as president-elect… Continue reading

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Quebec Premier Francois Legault leave a press conference in Ottawa on Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Provinces delaying or revisiting vaccine programs as Pfizer delays dose deliveries

OTTAWA — At least three provinces are now temporarily delaying or pausing… Continue reading

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney attends a news conference in Calgary on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Kenney says killing Keystone sets risky precedent, puts Alberta on hook for US$1B

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says cancelling the Keystone XL expansion… Continue reading

Treena Mielke
Family: Enjoying this year’s postcard-perfect winter

COVID is still here complete with all the spinoffs each and everyone… Continue reading

In this undated photo issued by the University of Oxford, a volunteer is administered the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, in Oxford, England. Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said Monday Nov. 23, 2020, that late-stage trials showed its coronavirus vaccine was up to 90% effective, giving public health officials hope they may soon have access to a vaccine that is cheaper and easier to distribute than some of its rivals. (University of Oxford / John Cairns)
Canadians who have had COVID-19 should still get the vaccine, experts say

Studies have suggested previous COVID-19 infections may result in promising levels of… Continue reading

Most Read