Mar 16, 2020
Justin Trudeau Coronavirus Conference Transcript: Closes Canadian Borders to Most Non-Canadian Citizens
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today that he plans to shut down the border to most non-citizens as a measure to stop the spread of the virus into Canada. Read the full transcript of his speech here.
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Justin Trudeau: (00:00)
Take increasingly aggressive steps to keep you and your family safe.
Justin Trudeau: (00:28)
First, we will be denying entry to Canada to people who are not Canadian citizens, or permanent residents. This measure will carve out some designated exceptions, including for air crews, diplomats, immediate family members of Canadian citizens, and at this time, US citizens.
Justin Trudeau: (01:51)
Second, air operators will be formally mandated to prevent all travelers who present symptoms of COVID-19 to board a plane. Air operators will be required to complete a basic health assessment of every air traveler, based on guidance from the public health agency of Canada. This means that anyone who has symptoms will not be able to come to Canada. I know this news will spark concern among Canadians traveling abroad. I want to assure you that our government will not leave you unsupported.
Justin Trudeau: (02:27)
To help asymptomatic Canadians return home, our government will set up a support program for Canadians who need to get on a plane. Canadian travelers will be able to get financial assistance to help them with the costs of returning home, or temporarily covering their basic needs while they wait to come back to Canada.
Justin Trudeau: (03:28)
Third, starting Wednesday, March 18th, only four Canadian airports will be accepting international flights: Toronto Pearson, Montreal Trudeau, Vancouver International Airport, and Calgary International Airport. At this time, domestic flights as well as flights coming from the US, Mexico, the Caribbean, and [foreign language 00:03:50] will not be affected. The travel restrictions announced today will not apply to commerce or trade. We will continue to ensure the supply of important goods to Canada.
Justin Trudeau: (04:04)
I know that these measures are far reaching. They are exceptional circumstances calling for exceptional measures. Earlier today, I had a call with our G7 partners to inform them of these important changes. From the very beginning, Canada’s response has been based on the latest available science and advice from our world-class health professionals. Today’s announcement is no different. These measures will help save lives.
Justin Trudeau: (05:36)
Dr. Tam, public health officials, and our ministers have been doing a tremendous job of keeping people safe and providing regular updates. As Dr. Taim said yesterday, public health authorities have conducted 25,000 tests to date, and this work continues. To ensure that more Canadians can have access to the latest information on COVID-19, Health Canada will be holding its daily update at the same place at noon, starting tomorrow. Today, their press conference will take place after my remarks.
Justin Trudeau: (06:25)
We will make $10 billion available in additional support for Canadian businesses. This is a tool that has worked before in difficult circumstances, and we’re confident that it is going to work again. The economic impact of this pandemic is shifting hourly, and we recognize the stress and anxiety that it is causing. As I’ve said, we are prepared to see Canadians through this time.
Justin Trudeau: (06:52)
We will have additional measures to announce as early as tomorrow to support Canadians, particularly our most vulnerable. Right now, provinces and territories are facing different realities and risks, which means taking steps that make sense for people in each area. At the same time, we also need to keep building an aligned Canada-wide approach.
Justin Trudeau: (07:18)
On Friday I held a telephone meeting with the premiers and deputy prime minister Freeland, and information has been flowing continuously since. We’ve been in constant communication with the provinces and territories, so that there are no barriers between our jurisdictions during this critical time.
Justin Trudeau: (07:35)
During the meeting, I spoke to premiers about the billion dollar COVID-19 response fund our government has put in place, which includes support for provinces and territories and their healthcare systems, so hospitals can prepare. We can still slow the spread of this virus, but as Dr. Tam said, that window is closing. So far we’ve seen many provinces take aggressive steps to protect their communities. I want to thank them for their work. It’s time to take every precaution to keep people safe.
Justin Trudeau: (08:09)
The COVID-19 response fund also includes support for indigenous communities. On Friday, I spoke with First Nations, Inuit, and Metis Nation leaders to discuss the work we’re doing together on preparedness and mitigation efforts. Minister Miller also provided an update on our regular coordination with indigenous partners, as well as the provinces and territories. Minister van Dao has also been connecting with the territories and is working on exceptional measures to protect the North. We’re making sure that everyone, no matter where they live, is prepared.
Justin Trudeau: (09:41)
I want to remind all Canadians that they should avoid non-essential travel outside of our country until further notice. Canadian travelers should return to Canada via commercial means while it is still possible to do so. Let me be clear. If you’re abroad, it’s time for you to come home. If you’ve just arrived, you must self-isolate for 14 days. And finally, all Canadians, as much as possible, should stay home.
Justin Trudeau: (10:12)
By staying home, you can not only protect your health and that of those around you, but ensure that our healthcare professionals and our healthcare systems can focus on those who need their help. This is an adjustment for all of us. We know that staying home is an important step to protect the community and each other. We all have to do it.
Justin Trudeau: (10:34)
But I want to remind all Canadians that social distancing doesn’t mean we have to stop talking to each other. Pick up the phone, write an email, FaceTime. The strength of our country is our capacity to come together and care for each other, especially in times of need. So call your friends, check in with your family. Think of your community. Buy only what you need at the store. But if you’re heading out to grab groceries, ask your neighbor if you can get them anything. And if you know someone who is working on the front lines, send them a thank you. See how they’re holding up.
Justin Trudeau: (11:15)
In Canada, we’re lucky to have outstanding health care professionals. I want to thank them once again for their tireless efforts to keep us all safe. At the same time, our government is doing everything it needs to do to keep you safe, to keep your family safe, and to keep our economy strong. No matter what our next steps look like, you can rest assured that we will take them together, with premiers and mayors, with doctors and families and neighbors, because that is what Canadians do in difficult times. We pull together and we look after each other.
Justin Trudeau: (12:36)
Okay. I will highlight that the situation, as we all know, has been evolving extremely rapidly, and we’ve taken measures over the past number of days to keep Canadians safe. And we’re taking more measures, significant measures today. I can understand people’s frustration, and that’s why we’re ensuring that there is more that will be done every step of the way to keep Canadians safe.
[inaudible 00:13:41] Gregor, CTV News. Prime Minister, you’ve been telling us for several weeks now that a travel ban was not required, that it wasn’t helpful. What changed your mind overnight, and do you regret not acting sooner to take this step as taken by other jurisdictions, other countries?
Justin Trudeau: (13:55)
This situation, as everyone knows, has been evolving extremely rapidly, and the recommendations of public health and public safety have been evolving as well. At every step, we’ve taken the best advice of our public health officials, and now is the time to take this particular step. It is a significant step. It is a step that we take in exceptional circumstances, but it is the right step to be taking today.
Another brutal day on the stock markets this morning. TSX is down seven percent, just this morning actually, almost eight percent. What is your message to Canadians who are seeing their retirement savings being wiped away, and especially those who are thinking of retiring in the near future?
Justin Trudeau: (14:39)
Our focus right now is on ensuring that Canadians who are staying home from work have enough money to be able to buy groceries and pay their rent. These are measures that we will be moving forward with in the coming days, to ensure that people can keep themselves and their loved ones safe and healthy. We will, of course, be moving towards supporting businesses, as we already have, with significant access to credit of $10 billion, and other measures to ensure that in the short term, we are able to continue to support each other. In the medium term and then into the longterm, we will need to invest significant amounts to restore people’s confidence in the economy, to restore the kind of growth that is going to ensure a better future for all Canadians. And we will do those things as we need.
Speaker 5: (16:29)
Public health officials see many of the new cases can be traced to the US. Why are US citizens exempt from entry restrictions to Canada?
Justin Trudeau: (16:36)
We have been collaborating very closely with the United States, coordinating various measures that we’ve taken together. The level of integration of our two countries is quite particular, which is why we need to do some more work in order to ensure that we’re doing what we need to do in the right way. But our first preoccupation is, and always will be, the continued safety of Canadians, and we will take the measures necessary to keep Canadians safe.
Speaker 5: (17:03)
But then why are US citizens being allowed into Canada? What does this mean for the US border? When, is it going to be closed at all?
Justin Trudeau: (17:10)
At this point we are closing our borders to all non-Canadian, or non-permanent residents of Canada. We are recognizing that for the moment, that measure does not apply to US citizens, but we will have more work to do in the coming days to ensure that we’re doing everything we need to do to keep Canadians safe, and to ensure the flow of goods and necessary equipment to Canadians.
Speaker 5: (18:54)
You’ve said that your decisions thus far have been dictated by science. What is the science behind leaving the US border open, but denying entry to other travelers?
Justin Trudeau: (19:04)
We recognize that the level of integration of our two economies, and the coordination that we’ve had over the past while, puts the US in a separate category from the rest of the world. But we will continue to coordinate with the US, we will continue to examine next steps and measures that must be taken. Today we are announcing that we are closing our borders to all foreign nationals from everywhere around the world. We will have more announcements to make in the coming days as this situation evolves.
Speaker 5: (19:39)
You said also that citizens have to, or people returning to Canada must self-isolate for 14 days. Are you preparing any measures to ensure that they do that or is this still voluntary?
Justin Trudeau: (19:50)
If we put in measures for mandatory self-isolation, as many people have looked for, there would need to be enforcement measures around that, both by public health and by public safety. We know that at this point the expectation that people self-isolate is something that we’ve asked of Canadians around the country, and that we are expecting people to do. We know that Canadians want to keep themselves and their families safe, and we are confident that people will do what is necessary to keep themselves, their loved ones, and their neighborhoods safe.
Christopher [Nardia 00:20:29], National Post. On Friday, health minister Patty Hajdu said, and I quote, Canadians think we can stop this at the border, but what we see is a global pandemic, which means that border measures are highly ineffective and in some cases can create harm. We see that in countries that had the worst expressions, had the tightest borders. What changed?
Justin Trudeau: (20:48)
We have seen over time, various countries take very stiff border measures that proved ineffective. In Canada, we based our decisions on public health recommendations that ensured that Canada’s approach worked for many, many weeks in keeping a very slow spread of the virus in Canada, but through contact tracing and other measures. We’ve now come to the point where the best advice from public health officials is that additional border measures on top of the social distancing measures that we are encouraging domestically is the right combination to move forward now.
We’ve seen throughout the weekend complaints that airports weren’t able to keep up, they weren’t advising travelers. What makes you think that suddenly closing the border and redirecting flights to four places, the bureaucracy will able to adapt and actually enforce these measures?
Justin Trudeau: (21:43)
We’ve already seen shifts at the airports where every single traveler gets asked if they have symptoms, gets asked to acknowledge, that they’ve been asked to self isolate. We will be putting forward more support in those four airports as well. I want to highlight that local jurisdictions are also stepping up to assist in those four airports. We know that there is much more that we can do, and that’s what we are doing.