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Non-essential travellers will not be eligible for Canada's sick leave benefit: PM

Last Updated Jan 5, 2021 at 10:52 am MDT

FILE: A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Justin Trudeau says anyone who's travelled for non-essential reasons will not be able to access sick leave benefit

Change to Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit comes after a number of politicians were caught travelling over holidays

'It is not intended for travellers who are quarantining when they return from holiday,' prime minister says of CRSB

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) – The prime minister has announced that the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit will not be available for people who are forced to quarantine after a non-essential trip.

This comes after a number of politicians were caught vacationing internationally over the holidays, despite public health guidance to avoid non-essential travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is not intended for travellers who are quarantining when they return from holiday,” Justin Trudeau said Tuesday. “This program was created to give people sick leave if they needed it and otherwise wouldn’t have one from their employer. It’s not there to pay for someone’s post-vacation quarantine.”

The prime minister promised more details in the days to come but was clear: “Anyone who travelled for non-essential reasons would not be able to access the sickness benefit.”

The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit offers people who have to quarantine for 14 days $500 a week.

The federal employment minister has said the benefit was designed “to provide workers with a paid sick-leave option” and not travel with paid time-off on return.

“In September, all parties in the House of Commons unanimously passed legislation, creating three new benefits and outlining eligibility criteria for the Canada Recovery Benefit, Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit and Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit,” Carla Qualtrough said in a statement Saturday.

“The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit was never intended to incentivize or encourage Canadians to not follow public health or international travel guidelines.”

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Trudeau ‘disappointed’ to learn of Liberal MPs travel

When asked about his reaction to learning about two Liberal caucus members who had taken trips over the December holidays, Trudeau said he was “disappointed.”

“One of the things that has been really, really important throughout this pandemic for Canadians is the sense that we are all in this together, that we’re looking out for each other, because the actions of any one person can have a positive or a negative benefit on the health situation of your neighbour,” he explained, stressing the importance of standing united and supporting one another.

“We need to do our very, very best in supporting them. That’s why I was disappointed to find of two of our caucus members who travelled and why there were consequences in them resigning from their committee roles, and that’s why all Canadians were so disappointed to see so many examples of folks who should have known better doing things that put us all at risk,” the prime minister added.

Federal Liberal MP Kamal Khera announced Sunday she was stepping down from her role as parliamentary secretary to the minister of international development after travelling to Seattle on Dec. 23 to attend a small memorial service for her uncle and father.

Also on Sunday, Liberal MP Sameer Zuberi said he would step down from his committee roles after he travelled to Delaware to be with his wife’s grandfather, who was ill.

“We didn’t imagine when we passed it unanimously in the House with the support of all parties that people would use it to pay for their quarantines after having gone south for a two-week vacation. That is something we are going to fix right now,” Trudeau said.

People arriving to Canada will require negative COVID-19 test

In addition to the change to the recovery benefit, Trudeau also announced people will be required to have a negative COVID-19 test before boarding a flight returning to Canada. This is in addition to the mandatory quarantine period for international arrivals.

“We’ve been very clear: no one should be vacationing abroad right now,” Trudeau said. “But if you still decide to travel at your own risk, you will need to show a negative COVID-19 test before you return and you must self-isolate for two weeks when you get back. You need to take this seriously. Not following the rules could mean real consequences, including fines and prison time.”

He noted that travellers’ isolation plans are being reviewed. If their plans are found to be inadequate, these people will be required to quarantine in a federal facility.