Canada


Authors: Charlotte Oger-Chambonnet and Geneviève Dickey

Firm: Renno & Vathilakis Inc. is a Montreal law firm specializing in civil and commercial litigation, family law and class actions. (Website)
Contact: E-Mail (cchambonnet@ renvath.com) (LinkedIn)

Overview of federal legal measures as of May 29, 2020 in response to the coronavirus.

Important note: The information on this page is intended for informational purposes only and shall not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion of Renno Vathilakis Inc. Online visitors should not take action upon this information without first seeking professional counsel. Please note: Due to the extraordinary situation, the legislation is in continuous evolution and may change very fast.


Introduction

CANADA is a federal state comprised of ten (10) provinces. The federal government is responsible for matters of national and international concern. While provinces and territories are generally responsible for the provision of direct health care services to Canadians, the Government of Canada is responsible for health care services of federal populations such as First Nations communities, members of the Canadian Armed Forces, and consular staff abroad.

1. INTERVENTIONS AND RESTRICTIONS

1.1 Legal basis

Along with legislation, the Government of Canada has the authority, under existing laws, such as the Quarantine Act and the Aeronautics Act, to issue orders and regulations to address COVID-19 to ensure the public safety of Canadians. To date, the Government has not yet invoked its extraordinary powers under the Emergencies Act.

Section 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides that rights and freedoms may be subject to reasonable limits if those limits are prescribed by law and demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. This means that Parliament may enact laws that limit Charter rights and freedoms. The Charter will be violated only where a limit is not demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society.

1.2 Border

Arrival from the United States:

A non-permanent resident and/or non-Canadian is prohibited from entering Canada from the United States if:

  • they have COVID-19 or have signs and symptoms of COVID-19 or have reasonable grounds to suspect they have such signs and symptoms, including:

(a) a fever and cough; or

(b) a fever and breathing difficulties.

*This does not apply to persons who seek to enter Canada from the United States for the purpose of making a claim for refugee protection.

Effective until May 21st, 2020. (Link)


Arrival from other countries than the United States:

The Government of Canada banned the entry of all non-Canadian or non-permanent residents into Canada if they arrive from a foreign country other than the United States, save for the exceptions detailed in section 3 of the Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Canada Order (Prohibition of Entry into Canada from any Country other than the United States).

Effective until June 30th, 2020.


Arrival by sea:

On March 9, 2020, the Government of Canada advised that Canadians avoid all travel on cruise ships due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

Regulations Maintaining the Safety of Persons in Ports and the Seaway were adopted to temporarily restrict the number of persons arriving by cruise ship at ports managed by port authorities, at public ports, at public port facilities and in the Seaway to reduce the risk of persons in those areas contracting infectious diseases, including severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, also known as SARS-CoV-2.

Effective until June 30th, 2020.


1.3 Export control

The COVID-19 Emergency Response Act (S.C. 2020, c.5) amends the Export Development Act to broaden the purposes for which Export Development Canada is established and to permit the Minister of Finance, until September 30, 2020, to determine the amount of Export Development Canada’s authorized capital as well as the amount of certain limits applicable to Export Development Canada. It broadens the transactions for which the Minister of International Trade, with the concurrence of the Minister of Finance, may grant an authorization. It also provides for the suspension of certain provisions of the Export Development Canada Exercise of Certain Powers Regulations.

1.4 Mandatory isolation

The Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Canada Order (Mandatory Isolation), No. 2 was made to manage all persons who enter Canada whether by air, land rail and sea, to minimize the travel related risk of introduction and spread of COVID-19 coronavirus disease by requiring all persons who enter Canada to isolate for 14 days from the day upon which they entered Canada.

The Government of Canada ordered that travellers arriving in Canada cannot isolate or quarantine in a place where they would be in contact with persons who are vulnerable. Upon arrival, travellers must confirm they have a suitable place to isolate or quarantine. If they cannot do so, the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada will designate a quarantine facility.


  • Asymptomatic persons

Any person entering Canada who does not have signs and symptoms of COVID-19 must:

(a) quarantine themselves without delay in accordance with instructions provided by a screening officer or a quarantine officer and remain in quarantine until the expiry of the 14-day period that begins on the day on which the person enters Canada; and

(b) monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 until the expiry of the 14-day period and, if they develop any signs and symptoms of COVID-19, follow instructions provided by the public health authority specified by a screening officer or quarantine officer.


  • Exceptions

Certain persons are not obliged to quarantine themselves if they are asymptomatic, such as: a crew member, a person who enters Canada at the invitation of the Minister of Health for the purpose of assisting in the COVID-19 response, a member of the Canadian Forces or a visiting force as defined in section 2 of the Visiting Forces Act, a person or any person in a class of persons whom the Chief Public Health Officer determines will provide an essential service, a person who enters Canada for the purpose of providing medical care or transporting essential medical equipment, supplies, or means of treatment, or delivering, maintaining, or repairing medically-necessary equipment or devices (as long as they do not directly care for persons 65 years of age or older within the first 14 days after their entry to Canada), etc. (see sections 6 & 7 of Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Canada Order (Mandatory Isolation), No. 2)


  • Symptomatic persons

Any person entering Canada who has COVID-19 or has signs and symptoms of COVID-19 or has reasonable grounds to suspect they have such signs and symptoms must:

(a) isolate themselves without delay in accordance with instructions provided by a screening officer or a quarantine officer and remain in isolation until the expiry of the 14-day period that begins on the day on which the person enters Canada; and

(b) during the period of isolation, undergo any health assessments that a quarantine officer requires, monitor their signs and symptoms and report to the public health authority specified by a screening officer or quarantine officer if they require additional medical care.


  • Quarantine in a quarantine facility

Under certain conditions, the Government offers access to quarantine facilities for persons entering Canada who are unable to quarantine themselves for the period of 14 days.

Effective until June 30th, 2020.

1.5 Transportation by vessel

An interim order was issued to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 on-board passenger vessels certified to carry more than 12 passengers, prohibiting operations that are discretionary in nature, such as activities related to tourism and recreation, from operating in Canadian waters (Link).

For passenger vessels in arctic waters, effective until October 31, 2020.

For passenger vessels in any other Canadian waters, effective until June 30, 2020.

1.12 Sanctions

Offences under the Quarantine Act have been designated as contraventions, meaning that such offences can be prosecuted through the Contraventions Regime. Enforcement officers may issue tickets to persons who do not comply with the Quarantine Act. Fines range from $275 and $1,000 (but are capped at $100 for minors between 12 and 18 years old). Where an enforcement officer believes a more serious response is required, the summary conviction procedure established in the Criminal Code remains open to them. (Link)


2. SUPPORT OF BUSINESSES

2.1 Legal basis

On March 25, 2020, the Canadian Government assented COVID-19 Emergency Response Act. On April 11,2020, COVID-19 Emergency Response Act, No.2 (S.C. 2020, c.6) was adopted which introduces an emergency wage subsidy as part of the response to COVID-19.

2.2 Avoiding layoffs and rehiring employees

  • Wage Subsidy

The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) provides incentives for eligible employers to maintain the wages of their employees. It provides for a subsidy up to 75% of the salaries – up to $847 per week - without interest, and a postponement for the payment of taxes to help ease cash-flow challenges. The subsidy is available for employers of all sizes and accross all sectors who have suffered a drop in gross revenues of at least 15% in March, and 30% in April and May.

Employers who are eligible for the CEWS are entitled to receive a 100% refund for certain employer contributions to Employment Insurance, the Canada Pension Plan, the Quebec Pension Plan, and the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan paid in respect of employees who are on leave with pay.

For employers that are eligible for both the CEWS and the 10% Temporary Wage Subsidy for a period, any benefit from the Temporary 10% Wage Subsidy for remuneration paid in a specific period will generally reduce the amount available to be claimed under the CEWS in that same period.

The Bill includes a penalty for employers who artificially reduce their income to qualify.

The program will be in place for a 12-week period, from March 15 to June 6, 2020.


  • Temporary 10% Wage Subsidy

The Temporary 10% Wage Subsidy is a three-month measure that allows eligible employers to reduce the amount of payroll deduction required to be remitted to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

You are an eligible employer if you:

  • are a(n):

    • individual (excluding trusts),

    • partnership.

    • non-profit organization,

    • registered charity, or

    • Canadian-controlled private corporation (including a cooperative corporation) eligible for the small business deduction;

  • have an existing business number and payroll program account with the CRA on March 18, 2020; and

  • pay salary, wages, bonuses, or other remuneration to an eligible employee.

Note: Partnerships are only eligible for the subsidy if their members consist exclusively of individuals (excluding trusts), registered charities, or Canadian-controlled private corporations eligible for the small business deduction. (Link)


2.3 Access to credit

  • Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA)

Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) for small businesses provides relief for small businesses experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19. It offers unsecured, forgivable loans to eligible commercial property owners to:

  • reduce the rent owed by their impacted small business tenants

  • meet operating expenses on commercial properties

Property owners must offer a minimum of a 75% rent reduction for the months of April, May and June 2020. (Link)

2.4 Creating new jobs and opportunities for youth

  • Wage Subsidy

The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy provides incentives for eligible employers to maintain the wages of their employees. It provides for a subsidy up to 75% of the salaries without interest, and a postponement for the payment of taxes to help ease cash-flow challenges.

The Bill includes a penalty for employers who artificially reduce their income to qualify.


  • Support for micro enterprises

The Order directing Export Development Canada provides support for working capital and liquidity for micro enterprises in order to cover non-deferrable costs during the current economic crisis related to COVID-19.

To remain in place for the duration of Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan.

3. SUPPORT OF INDIVIDUALS

3.1 Individuals and families

  • Increasing the Canada Child Benefit

The Governement of Canada is providing up to an extra $300 per child through the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) for 2019-20. This will mean approximately $550 more for the average family. This benefit will be delivered as part of the scheduled CCB payment in May. (Link)


  • Special Goods and Services Tax credit payment

The Governement of Canada is providing a one-time special payment starting April 9 through the Goods and Services Tax credit for low- and modest-income families. The average additional benefit will be close to $400 for single individuals and close to $600 for couples. (Link)

3.2 People facing loss of income

  • Employment insurance

The Employment Insurance program is temporarily simplified to manage the extraordinary volume of claims due to Covid.

For EI claims established between March 15, 2020 and October 3, 2020, an interim order describes that claims for EI regular benefits and EI sickness benefits are considered as applications for the Emergency Response Benefit. These changes will allow for many claims to be processed quickly by simplifying the eligibility criteria and facilitating automation.

A second interim order specifies that workers may be eligible for the Employment Insurance Emergency Response Benefit if they cease working for reasons related to COVID-19 or they would otherwise have qualified for Employment Insurance regular or sickness benefits under the normal rules. The objective of this Interim Order is to ensure that these groups of claimants must meet the same income restrictions. It also specifies that claimants can receive nominal income from employment or self-employment, while still being eligible to receive the benefit.

Eligibility for the Employment Insurance Emergency Response Benefit was expanded to EI claimants who recently exhausted regular benefits and are unable to find work for reasons related to COVID-19. (Link) Eligibility was also expanded to self-employed fishers who recently exhausted EI fishing benefits and are unable to start working for reasons related to COVID-19. (Link)

These interim orders do not make changes to EI maternity, parental, compassionate care or family caregiving benefits.

Effective until March 20, 2021.


  • Canada Emergency Response Benefit Act

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit Act authorizes the making of income support payments to workers who suffer a loss of income for reasons related to the coronavirus disease 2019. The support payments consist of a taxable benefit of $2,000 every 4 weeks for up to 16 weeks to eligible workers who have lost their income due to COVID-19.


Workers who cease work due to Covid-19 may receive nominal amounts of income, up to $1000 over a four-week period, without affecting their eligibility for income support payments under the Canada Emergency Response Benefit Act. (Link)

Effective until December 2, 2020.

3.3 Seniors

The required minimum withdrawals from Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) was reduced by 25 per cent for 2020. (Link)

3.4 Youth, post-secondary students and recent graduates

  • Loss of income and work opportunities

Bill C-15 authorizes the payment of Canada emergency student benefits to students who lost work and income opportunities for reasons related to the coronavirus disease 2019.


  • Student loans

The Canada Student Loans Act and the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act were amended to provide that, during the period that begins on March 30, 2020 and ends on September 30, 2020, no interest is payable by a borrower on a student loan and no amount on account of principal or interest is required to be paid by the borrower. These measures apply to the federal portion of student loans. Borrowers should check with their provincial or territorial student loan provider to see if payment is required on the provincial or territorial portion. (Link)

Changes were also made to the Canada Student Loans Program (CSLP) to allow more students to qualify for support and be eligible for greater amounts. The changes include:

  • doubling the Canada Student Grants for all eligible full-time students to up to $6,000 and up to $3,600 for part-time students in 2020-21. The Canada Student Grants for Students with Permanent Disabilities and Students with Dependents is doubled.

  • broadening eligibility for student financial assistance by removing the expected student’s and spouse’s contributions in 2020-21.

  • raising the maximum weekly amount that can be provided to a student in 2020-21 from $210 to $350. (Link)


  • International students

The Government of Canada removed the restriction that allows international students to work a maximum of 20 hours per week while classes are in session, provided they are working in an essential service or function, such as health care, critical infrastructure, or the supply of food or other critical goods. (Link)

Effective until August 31, 2020.


  • Canadian students & recent graduates

The Government of Canada will support students and recent graduates by launching the “I Want to Help” platform, funding various student employment organizations, enhancing student financial assistance for fall 2020, and providing access to benefits over the summer 2020.

The Canada Student Service Grant (CSSG) helps students gain work experience and skills while they help their communities during the COVID‑19 pandemic. For students who choose to do national service and serve their communities, the new CSSG will provide up to $5,000 for their education in the fall.

The Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) provides support to students and new graduates who are not eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit or Employment Insurance or unable to work due to COVID-19. This benefit provides $1,250 per month for eligible students or $2,000 per month for eligible students with dependents or disabilities. This benefit is available from May to August 2020. (Link)

4. SUPPORT OF SPECIFIC SECTORS

4.1 Agriculture

  • Temporary foreign workers program

Allowing foreign workers (and other foreign nationals) to enter Canada recognizes their vital importance to the Canadian economy, especially agricultural foreign workers who are critical to the food security of Canadians and the success of Canadian food producers.

The Government of Canada granted an exemption for temporary foreign workers from the travel restrictions to Canada, along with other foreigners with student and work visas and permanent residents not yet in Canada, provided they adhere to a strict 14-day isolation protocol upon arrival.

The employers have to pay wages to workers for the quarantine or isolation period upon entry to Canada. Employers who provide accommodations must now provide temporary foreign workers with cleaning products for the purposes of cleaning and disinfecting their accommodations regularly (if the worker is subject to an order or regulation under the Quarantine Act or the Emergencies Act), and if the worker has or develops any signs or symptoms of COVID-19, the employer must provide accommodations for the worker, which allows the worker to fully isolate themselves from others. If a worker is subject to quarantine requirements under the Quarantine Act or the Emergencies Act, the employer is required to provide the worker with separate accommodations from those persons not in quarantine.

The federal government will provide $1,500 for each temporary foreign worker to employers to ensure requirements are fully met. The funding is conditional on employers not violating the mandatory 14-day isolation protocols or any other public health order.

The Regulations provide the authority for the Minister of Public Safety or the Minister’s delegate to issue a removal order for non-compliance with the new conditions that require compliance with an order or regulation under the Quarantine Act or the Emergencies Act, once a person has been found to be inadmissible. This exclusion order bars the person from re-entry to Canada for one year, unless a written authorization is provided to return within that timeframe. (Link)

Effective until: indeterminate

5. LEGAL PROCEEDINGS

5.1 Measures

The Minister of Justice implemented a series of measures to the justice system which maintains activities for urgent requests during the pandemic. As an essential service to Canadians, Canadian Courts continue to operate while adopting new measures, including temporary e-service for service on the Crown.

In a press release on May 8, 2020, the Department of Justice Canada and the Supreme Court of Canada announced the creation of an Action Committee on Court Operations in Response to COVID-19 to focus on developing court-specific health and safety guidelines.

The Supreme Court of Canada remains open for case-related matters, but the building is closed to visitors. Court documents temporally need to be filed by email and some deadlines are suspended but those imposed by statute remain in force.

6. INSOLVENCY

6.1 Measures

On April 6 2020, the Office of the Superintendent issued Directive No. 1R6 to allow Insolvency Counsellor to provide telephone consultation services.

On May 7, 2020, the Government announced that the Superintendent of Bankruptcy had obtained Court orders that provide flexibility to debtors for bankruptcy. The measures apply to active files as well as to those filed up to June 30, 2020 and:

o Allow consumer proposal debtors to miss up to 3 consumer proposal payments between March 13 and December 31, 2020, before the consumer proposal will be deemed annulled;

o Extend the time for holding meetings of creditors and mediations; and

o Extend the time for referring a matter to court with respect to subsection 170.1(3) of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act.