Since mid-April, Ontario had “closed” its provincial borders with Québec and Manitoba. I had crossed the first day of the “closure” and 2 other times since (all as part of international travel, an essential reason), so I’ll share that with you… but first, the important thing is that the borders will reopen tomorrow.
Here are the details.
By the way… we will soon publish the list of the dozens of countries where Canadians can travel as well as the same list for interprovincial travel.
And speaking of land borders, for those who are asking, there is no confirmation yet for the reopening of the Canada-US land border (for outbound Canadians) but rumors are talking about early July as a more likely date (which would coincide with the end of the 14-day quarantine), not June 21 when the current closure will expire. Flytrippers is following this closely.
Reopening on June 16th
You probably saw the news last week that the Canadian government announced the end of the 14-day quarantine in “early July” as I just said.
In a sign that the good news is just beginning, Canada’s most populous province is removing all restrictions at its provincial borders.
As of tomorrow, you will no longer need an “essential” reason to enter Ontario.
As we already been explained before, borders are almost never really “closed” contrary to what many people think (even Canada’s land borders, which are crossed by 200,000 people a week to this day), because on either side, residents are always allowed to enter for any reason.
And there are always essential travel exemptions for non-residents, which were quite extensive in the case of Ontario. And besides, flying into Ontario wasn’t even prohibited, it was only by land.
(In the city of Ottawa alone, it cost $850,000 to enforce this measure!)
But anyway, now… everything will be lifted in Ontario… and in Québec.
The April closure (and the Québec quarantine…)
In April, it was a completely different situation. Our April Fool’s joke about all interprovincial travel being banned almost wasn’t a joke anymore.
As much as it complicated things for travelers, the reality is that it made no sense to have such strict requirements for those returning from countries with literally 0 cases of COVID-19, without even requiring a test or quarantine for those traveling between what was 4 of the worst places in North America, according to the numbers at that time (ON, QC, BC, AB).
But in practice, the closure of the provincial border was really nothing like national borders: except for the first few days in April, there was no constant control at the land borders.
(Early on, they even refused entry to someone from Quebec who wanted to go to the LCBO to buy a product that the SAQ didn’t have—our governments care about our health and considered alcohol to be an essential good even during lockdowns, just not essential enough to cross into Ontario.)
Also, Québec had copied Ontario and closed its border to Ontarians. Québec is once again following its neighbor and removing its own restriction as well. While not closed, Manitoba had always had a mandatory 14-day quarantine even for interprovincial arrivals, and that has not changed yet.
Little known fact: in April, Québec had even imposed a 14-day quarantine on those returning from Ontario for non-essential reasons!
But then again, in practice, there never seems to have been any mention of this quarantine on the travel section of the Québec health website (we read about it in the government decree, but let’s just say that few people read that) so…
This was quite new, because Québec (like Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan) had never required quarantine for interprovincial travel.
In short, like the border enforcement, that is another thing that is very different from the real federal quarantine: that one is very serious. During my 5th quarantine, I even had my first home visit last week!
My experience crossing the Ontario-Québec border
In early April, I went to the United States to get vaccinated to simplify future travel.
(It’s not just us—and everyone else who knows anything about travel—who says this is ineffective: the committee of scientific experts assembled by the government itself said exactly the same thing in its thorough report.)
Of course, my itinerary involved a 15-hour bus and train ride to Québec City… and therefore crossing the Ontario-Quebec border.
Here are the special measures there were on the train in relation to this border closure: none.
I boarded VIA Rail train #28 (Ottawa to Montreal and Québec City) on a Monday afternoon and no employee asked me if I was going to Québec for essential reasons or if I was a resident or not.
Of course, getting home (and/or traveling outside of the province) was considered essential.
There were questions about COVID-19, but nothing about the provincial border or the new rules. I can attest to this, as the boarding process was exactly the same as my first train earlier that day from Toronto to Ottawa.
(By the way: yes, I always follow all the rules. Taking the train home to quarantine is fully permitted for travelers returning by land, contrary to what everyone believes. The only people who can’t take shared transportation are those who arrive by plane who test positive on their arrival test: they can still go home strangely enough, just not by shared transportation).
Here is the email I received from VIA Rail the day before my train.
In short, VIA Rail was not in the business of enforcing the rules: it was up to each traveler to know (and follow) them. They relied on the passengers.
It’s a bit like the fact that if you enter by land, you can’t take a domestic flight to get home… but the only “enforcement” is if the traveler declares it himself to the airline…
And it wasn’t only because it was the first day of the closure: I also took a Toronto-Montreal train trip 2 weeks ago when I came back from my trip to Uzbekistan via the land border to save hundreds of dollars once again.
And nothing had changed in the process and there was still no verification whatsoever regarding the “essential” nature of the trip.
Finally, my 3rd border crossing was right in between those 2, a layover in Toronto to get to Uzbekistan… but by plane, there were no restrictions as I said.
I planned a long layover in Toronto, because the airport offers free PCR and antigen testing for departing passengers: wicked savings compared to ≈ $200 for a PCR test in Québec.
By the way, did you know that there are antigen tests for only $49 in Montreal, Ottawa, and Québec City? A lot cheaper than the $149 they charge at the Montreal airport, right? We’ll be sharing this tip with you soon (along with lots of other travel tricks), so sign up for our free newsletter!
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The Ontario/Quebec border closure, which ensured that travel between the provinces was only allowed for essential reasons, will end tomorrow, June 16… as will Quebec’s mysterious interprovincial quarantine.
What do you want to know about the travel rules? Tell us in the comments below.
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Featured image: Montreal seen from the train (photo credit: Andrew, Flytrippers cofounder)
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