The Canada Border Services Agency has paused deportations while Canada deals with the spread of coronavirus, the agency confirmed to True North.
“During this time-period while the openness of international borders and availability of international flights is rapidly changing, there has been a significant impact on removal operations,” said a CBSA spokesperson.
“In light of the current circumstances and in the best interest of officers and clientele, the Government of Canada, in conjunction with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), has decided to stop carrying out removals at the current time.”
The spokesperson added that some removals may still take place with “serious criminal cases,” but these will be “via exception only.”
The directive includes the cancellation of previously scheduled deportations. The CBSA will be notifying those impacted by the cancellations in these cases.
CBSA didn’t confirm how long the pause will be in effect, though two immigration lawyers indicated they’ve heard it will last three weeks.
This comes just one day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a shutdown of the Canadian border to those who aren’t Canadian citizens or permanent residents. The federal government has also ordered many international flights to redirect to the Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and Toronto airports to better control the flow of entry into Canada.
CBSA is using what it calls a “risk-based approach” to assess even Canadian citizens returning to Canada. Officers have been directed to remind people who enter the country that they must self-isolate for 14 days. The CBSA is also asking anyone with symptoms to disclose them to a screening officer.
On Sunday, a CBSA employee at Pearson airport in Toronto tested positive for COVID-19, though the agency didn’t know where or when the employee, who is currently in self-isolation, contracted the virus.