Liberal Health Minister Patty Hajdu admitted on Wednesday before the House of Commons public safety committee that the federal government has “incomplete data” on the effectiveness of hotel quarantines versus at-home quarantines.

Hajdu made the statement in response to a question by Conservative MP and health critic Michelle Rempel Garner. 

Both Hajdu and Public Safety Minister Bill Blair appeared before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to testify on the hotel quarantine program in the wake of reports that a woman was sexually assaulted at one of the federal facilities. 

“Various Charter challenges have asked for data from the federal government showing that the hotel quarantine program is more effective at preventing the spread of COVID-19 variants than at-home quarantine coupled with pre- and post-arrival testing. Does the minister have that data?” asked Rempel Garner. 

“We have had participation with a number of provinces and territories and other partners to understand various approaches at the border in terms of quarantine and the combination of quarantine and testing, we’re continuing that research with partners,” replied Hajdu. 

“I will just say this, the data is incomplete internationally. We are as a world trying to figure out what the best approach is to prevent the importation of COVID-19, the combination of quarantine and testing and it is under study,” Hajdu continued.  

The Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) is currently in the midst of launching a legal challenge against the mandatory hotel quarantine program. According to a statement by the CCF, the group is arguing that the program is in violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 

Following reports of the sexual assault incident, Hajdu indicated in February that the federal hotel quarantine program was created to “protect Canadians.” 

“Every woman deserves to live a life free of violence and a life of dignity but I will repeat that these border measures are in place to protect Canadians and they will remain in place until such time that science and evidence indicates that it is safe to release them,” said Hajdu.

Despite calls by the Conservatives to suspend the program, the federal government recently indicated it expanded the number of hotel quarantine sites. 

The Public Health Agency of Canada is currently accepting more hotels as government-authorized accommodations to ensure additional rooms are available for travellers. Currently, there are 47 hotels available, some of which now can be booked online,” a Public Health Agency of Canada spokesperson told True North on Monday.

“More rooms will also become available as passengers get their test results and vacate the facilities following their mandatory stay.”

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