Six granted reprieve from Ebola-related visa ban, allowed into Canada | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Six granted reprieve from Ebola-related visa ban, allowed into Canada

January 09, 2015 - 12:31 PM

OTTAWA - Six people from Ebola-affected countries have been granted visas to come to Canada despite a federal government ban imposed on such travel last year.

The government isn't releasing any specific details about the six, citing privacy concerns.

They aren't believed to have been travelling together and each would have been required to undergo screening for the highly contagious virus before they left West Africa and again upon arrival in Canada, including a 21-day monitoring period.

"I can confirm that there are no Ebola cases in Canada," Patrick Gaebel, a spokesman for the Public Health Agency of Canada, said in an e-mail.

"Should a case ever be confirmed, the Public Health Agency of Canada would quickly inform all Canadians."

In October, the government said it would no longer accept visa applications from people seeking to come to Canada from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia or if they'd been there in the three months before applying for a visa.

It also returned an estimated 176 worker, student and visitor applications that were being processed at the time and some $20,000 in fees.

The government said the decision was made to prevent the introduction of the virus to Canada.

But it did provide an exception, under which the immigration minister could grant visas in exceptional cases where travel is in the national interest

Citizenship and Immigration Canada did not explain how that's defined, but minister Chris Alexander did provide a hint last fall in defending the decision to impose the ban.

"Travel with an economic justification will continue and it is continuing," he told the House of Commons in November.

Billions of dollars worth of investments in the mining sector have been put on hold in West Africa since the start of the outbreak and several companies with Canadian ties are affected.

One of them, ArcelorMittal, sent a letter to the prime minister in the fall asking him to reverse the ban, arguing it didn't help global efforts to control the spread of the virus.

Canada's imposition of travel restrictions was controversial, as the World Health Organization specifically asked countries not to impose travel bans in the event of disease outbreaks, unless instructed otherwise. It says such bans are counterproductive.

But the government argued the policy was not a travel ban, as it didn't apply to Canadian citizens or people who already had visas or other documents that would allow them into Canada.

There are 37 Canadian military medics, doctors and nurses currently working at an Ebola treatment clinic in Sierra Leone and many Canadians are serving with non-governmental organizations in the region.

"Canada and indeed, the international community have responded to this plight with generosity, genuine concern and determination to end the spread of the virus," Immigration spokesman Rejean Cantlon said in an e-mail.

There have been more than 20,000 cases of the virus confirmed and at least 8,000 deaths, according to the latest statistics from the World Health Organization.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2015
The Canadian Press

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