The Atlantic Bubble (French: Bulle de déplacement des provinces de l’Atlantique) is a special travel-restricted area created on July 3, 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada. The area is an agreement between four Atlantic Canadian provinces including New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador which allows unrestricted travel among provincial residents and restricts travel from Canadians who are residents of outside provinces. Residents wishing to travel to the Atlantic Bubble are subjected to screening and are required to quarantine for 14 days before moving freely amongst the bubble. Individual provinces have specific rules toward travellers from outside of Atlantic Canada. The provinces in the bubble have seen the lowest numbers of COVID-19 compared to others throughout the pandemic. In late November, three of the member-provinces temporarily suspended their involvement due to increasing COVID-19 cases numbers. Free travel is currently restricted between the provinces and the fate of the bubble remains unclear.
|Category||Special travel-restricted area|
Prince Edward Island
Newfoundland and Labrador
|Created||July 3, 2020|
(Temporarily suspended November 26, 2020)
|Government||Premier Blaine Higgs|
Premier Dennis King
Premier Stephen McNeil
Premier Dwight Ball (July 3-August 19, 2020)
Premier Andrew Furey (August 19, 2020-present)
The Atlantic Bubble was first conceived to encourage economic strength and fluidity amongst the Atlantic provinces due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada. Initially, the Atlantic Provinces had interprovincial travel restrictions, to prevent the spread of COVID-19. On June 24, 2020 it was announced that the four premiers of the Atlantic Canadian provinces had come to an agreement of creating a free-travel bubble, effective July 3, 2020 amongst the provinces.
On November 23, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island announced plans to suspend involvement in the bubble effective November 24. Travellers from other Atlantic provinces would be required to self-isolate upon entry, thus restricting the bubble to just New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. On November 26, New Brunswick joined PEI and Newfoundland and Labrador in imposing a 14-day self-isolation requirement on out-of-province travellers, thus ending any free-travel amongst the member provinces. On December 3, Prince Edward Island extended its suspension of involvement in the bubble.
In response, Nova Scotian Premier Stephen McNeil commented that despite the temporary withdrawal of other provinces from the agreement, he called the bubble concept a success for Atlantic Canadians' mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nova Scotians do not have to self-isolate if they return from another Atlantic province, but will face regional self-isolation orders if entering one of the other three provinces.
Premier Furey of Newfoundland and Labrador announced December 7 that the province will suspend involvement in the bubble until at least the beginning of 2021. PEI will be suspending its involvement in the bubble until at least January 11, 2021.
At the beginning of the pandemic, peace officers restricted movement between provinces in the Atlantic region. After the agreement to begin the bubble, officers stayed on the border and checked identification for those travelling between provinces. Residents of each of the four provinces are allowed to travel freely amongst member provinces. Travellers from outside of the member provinces are asked to provide proof of plans to quarantine for 14 days. They are also screened for COVID-19 symptoms. New Brunswick, which borders Quebec is the only province with a land border to restrict vehicular traffic. Each province has different rules for entering the province for travellers from outside the Atlantic Bubble. Air travellers are screened for COVID-19 and asked for proof of plans to quarantine for 14 days.
Prince Edward IslandEdit
Travellers from outside the Atlantic Bubble can only be approved for the following reasons:
- Court appearance
- Family connections
- Emergency medical purpose for human or animal
- Exceptional or compassionate circumstances
- Parent or travel escort of child(ren) in shared custody with parent in another province
- Permanent relocation as a Canadian citizen or permanent resident
- Seasonal property owner or Family connection to seasonal property owner
- Student, and escorting parents
- Travelling worker
- Request for reconsideration of previous travel application
- July 6: A truck driver in Georgetown, Prince Edward Island was fined for failing to self isolate after travelling outside of the Atlantic Bubble.
- September 4–7: Four students were fined by RCMP in Antigonish and Wolfville in Nova Scotia for failure to self-isolate.
- September 10: A student was fined in Wolfville, Nova Scotia for breaking quarantine.
- September 21: A man from North Rustico, PEI was fined for failure to self-isolate.
- October 1: A man who travelled from Central Africa died from COVID-19 while in self-isolation in Newfoundland and Labrador. The man was asymptomatic while travelling from Central Africa to Toronto, and then Toronto to Halifax and Halifax to Deer Lake on September 30.
- October 23: A man from Kentville, Nova Scotia was fined for failing to self isolate after travelling outside the Atlantic Bubble.
- November 2: WestJet suspended all flights to the Atlantic provinces, citing lack of interest, due in part to the member province's disinterest in travel outside of the bubble.
- December 8: Air Canada announced the suspension of many domestic flights in the Atlantic Canada region effective January 11, 2021, citing lack of interest due to government enforced self-isolation times.
A poll found 81% of Atlantic Canadians in favour of the Atlantic Bubble.
Critics call into question the constitutionality of the Atlantic Bubble. According to Section 6 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms:
(2) Every citizen of Canada and every person who has the status of a permanent resident of Canada has the right
a) to move to and take up residence in any province; and b) to pursue the gaining of a livelihood in any province.— Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 6
Therefore, detractors of the bubble suggest that the concept of the bubble impedes the rights of Canadian citizens and permanent residents.
In September 2020, the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador ruled that, while existing travel restrictions do violate Section 6 of the Charter, the violation is permitted under Section 1, which allows "limits [on Charter rights]... as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society." The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is appealing the decision.
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- Toolkit, Web Experience (April 17, 2020). "Pre-Travel Approval Process". www.princeedwardisland.ca.
- Day, Jim. "Trucker in P.E.I. fined $1,000 for failing to self-isolate | The Journal Pioneer". www.journalpioneer.com.
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- Higgins, Brian (September 21, 2020). "P.E.I. man fined for failing to self-isolate due to COVID-19". CBC News PEI. Retrieved November 10, 2020.
- Herald, The Chronicle. "Newfoundland and Labrador's latest COVID-19 case related to that of a man who died in self-isolation | The Chronicle Herald". www.thechronicleherald.ca.
- "Man dies from COVID-19 after travelling from Central Africa to Newfoundland via Toronto". CP24. October 3, 2020.
- Herald, The Chronicle. "Kentville man fined for failing to self-isolate after travelling outside of Atlantic Bubble | The Chronicle Herald". www.thechronicleherald.ca.
- Reynolds, Christopher (October 14, 2020). "WestJet cutting flights to Atlantic Canada, laying off staff". Atlantic.
- Chisholm, Cassidy (October 14, 2020). "Cuts to WestJet service 'a major blow' to Atlantic airports as region still isolated due to COVID-19". CBC News Nova Scotia. Retrieved November 10, 2020.
- Wherry, Aaron (October 16, 2020). "WestJet's retreat from Atlantic Canada pushes the federal government into a corner". CBC News. Retrieved November 10, 2020.
- "'Verge of collapse': Air Canada reports more service cuts, station closures in Atlantic Canada". Global News.
- "Air Canada cutting more routes in Atlantic Canada in January, saying they are unviable during pandemic" – via The Globe and Mail.
- "Air Canada cuts more flights to Atlantic provinces". ca.news.yahoo.com.
- "'Massive blow': Air Canada to suspend multiple flight routes to Atlantic Canada". Atlantic. December 8, 2020.
- "Nova Scotians steadfast on keeping borders shut : poll". HalifaxToday.ca.
- English, Jill; Murphy, Tom (September 16, 2020). "Support for Atlantic bubble remains strong even as some question its constitutionality". CBC News Nova Scotia. Retrieved November 10, 2020.