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Planning a Canadian vacation? Some provinces may be off limits. Here’s what you need to know

This summer, many Canadians may choose to explore their own country due to closed borders and concerns about contracting COVID-19 while travelling abroad. 

“People will be sticking closer to home, going out in the cars because they [have] control. It’s their bubble,” said Allison Wallace, spokesperson for travel agency Flight Centre. 

Despite the pandemic, Canadians will still be able to visit national and provincial parks and stay in hotels.

But before hitting the road or booking a flight, it’s important to first check the rules of the province you want to visit.

Currently, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and the territories are banning visitors from other provinces.

Provinces in the rest of Canada are advising against non-essential travel, but their borders are still open to Canadian travellers. 

Visitors to Manitoba and Nova Scotia, however, will first have to self-isolate for 14-days — a rule that’s likely to keep many people away. 

gerald renaud driving
Many Canadians may hit the road this summer and travel close to home to play it safe during the pandemic. (Gerald Renaud)

Staying close to home safest bet 

Provinces may ease — or tighten — their travel rules this summer, depending on their COVID-19 numbers, so it’s also important to stay up-to-date on your desired destination. 

“Everybody is navigating this differently based on the situation they have locally, so we may see some provinces move at a different pace than others,” said Elliott Silverstein with CAA Insurance. The CAA — the Canadian Automobile Association — provides both auto and travel services. 

And if the current restrictions and advisories remain, your safest bet this summer may be to stay close to home. 

“If these barriers — if they’re not removed — it will effectively lead people … to travel within your own province,” said Silverstein. 

The current travel rules for each province are listed below. Note that Canadians entering any province from another country must self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival. 

N.B., N.L. and P.E.I.

Until further notice, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island have closed their borders to out-of-province visitors to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. 

In New Brunswick and P.E.I., peace officers stationed at land border crossings are authorized to turn travellers away if they attempt to enter. 

“It goes against Islanders’ nature to not welcome visitors to the province, but it is what is needed at this time,” said P.E.I. government spokesperson Vickie Tse in an email.

However, the island is set to make an exception for some out-of-towners: Canadians with seasonal properties on P.E.I. can request entry by submitting an application starting Monday. New Brunswick will allow travellers, such as P.E.I. cottage owners, to drive through its province to get to their destination. 

kim taylor
Kim Taylor said the recent provincial government decision denying her entry into the province following her mother’s death has exacerbated her grief. (CBC)

Provinces shutting their borders to fellow Canadians has raised concerns from both legal experts and some travellers.

Kim Taylor of Halifax was devastated when Newfoundland and Labrador refused her request earlier this month to attend her mother’s funeral in the province. She was allowed in 11 days later — after speaking publicly about her case. 

Last week, Taylor and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association launched a court challenge against Newfoundland and Labrador, alleging its border ban is unconstitutional.  

The Newfoundland and Labrador government told CBC News it couldn’t comment on a case before the courts.

WATCH | Travel bubbles considered for regions with low COVID-19 cases:

Some regions with low COVID-19 cases, including some Canadian provinces, are considering creating so-called travel bubbles to allow people to move freely within those areas, but experts say the concept has many flaws. 1:59

Residents in Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and P.E.I. can visit other parts of Canada, but must self-isolate for 14 days upon their return — a high price to pay for an out-of-province vacation. 

Residents may also pay a high price if they break the rules. A New Brunswick doctor recently travelled to Quebec for personal reasons, didn’t self-isolate when he returned and wound up infecting several other New Brunswickers with COVID-19. He has since been suspended from practising in the province.

Man. and N.S.

Manitoba and Nova Scotia haven’t shut their borders, but they aren’t putting out the welcome mat, either. 

Anyone visiting Manitoba or Nova Scotia — or returning from a trip to another province — must self-isolate for 14 days. Travellers driving through Manitoba are asked to make stops only when necessary. 

Manitoba has also banned non-essential travel to its northern and remote regions to help prevent the COVID-19 spread. Starting Monday, however, the province will allow people to travel to some northern tourist destinations.

Alta., B.C., Ont., Que. and Sask.

Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan aren’t banning travellers from other provinces or mandating that they self-isolate for 14 days. However, they all advise against non-essential travel at this time. 

Don’t cross the border. We love our Quebec neighbours, but just wait until this is all over.– Ontario Premier Doug Ford

“Don’t cross the border. We love our Quebec neighbours, but just wait until this is all over,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford stated earlier this month when asked about Quebecers visiting Ontario.

If you do decide to visit Alberta, B.C. or Saskatchewan, don’t plan on pitching a tent at a provincially run campground; until further notice, their campsites will only be available to residents in their province. 

camping alberta nordegg
Until further notice, provincial campsites in Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan will only be available to residents in their respective provinces. (Wallis Snowdon/CBC)

Quebec and Saskatchewan have also restricted non-essential travel to certain remote northern regions in their province as a precautionary measure during the pandemic. 

Anyone entering Saskatchewan from another part of Canada is advised to self-monitor their health for 14 days and to self-isolate at the first sign of any COVID-19 symptoms. 

What about the territories?

Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon prohibit non-essential travel to their regions, and returning travellers must self-isolate for 14 days.

Yukon plans to allow people to travel between the territory and neighbouring B.C. with no restrictions starting in July. 

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