The Government of Canada announced today the coming into force of the new Quarantine Act. The modernization of this legislation addresses urgent issues with respect to the spread of communicable diseases in Canada and abroad.
?Significant public health events, like SARS and the current threat of avian influenza have shown that communicable disease outbreaks continue to threaten our health,? said the Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Health. ?The Act provides the flexibility and response tools required to address such outbreaks in an age where travel times are measured in hours rather than weeks.?
The new Quarantine Act modernizes existing legislation that dates back to 1872 and provides new tools to manage serious public health threats. New provisions include the ability to divert an aircraft to an alternate landing site, to designate quarantine facilities at any location in Canada, and to prevent entry to Canada of travellers that represent an imminent and severe public health risk.
The Quarantine Act also compliments other legislative initiatives to strengthen Canada?s public health system such as the creation of the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer.
The Act also creates two new classes of officials, Environmental Health Officers and Screening Officers. These officials, along with Quarantine officers, will oversee the screening, assessment, and if necessary, detention of people, transport vessels, goods and cargo crossing Canadian borders that represent a public health risk. The presence of these officers will strengthen national preparedness for future potential public health risks including an influenza pandemic.
?Preparing for an influenza pandemic and other public health risks remains a priority,? says Dr. David Butler Jones, Chief Public Health Officer. ?The enactment of the new Quarantine Act represents a huge step forward in this task.?
The Quarantine Act has also built-in a number of guarantees to protect the rights and liberties of travellers, including limits on the sharing of personal health information.