Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says an American billionaire was mistakenly permitted to enter Canada without following the 14-day quarantine rule because of a decision by the Canada Border Services Agency.
“No special entry exemptions were provided to Uline executives, nor were any National Interest Exemptions. This was not a political decision,” Blair said on Twitter Thursday.
“A decision was made by officers based on the information provided. Entry should not have been permitted.”
Blair said his government is “working with the CBSA to ensure that similar cases do not occur again.”
Yesterday, a CBC News investigation revealed that Liz Uihlein — the 75-year-old president and CEO of Uline Inc., a Wisconsin-based retailer of shipping, packing and janitorial supplies — flew to Toronto on her private jet Aug. 25 to visit one of the company’s facilities in Milton, Ont. Two senior executives joined her on the trip.
A spokesperson for Uline said all three were granted formal exemptions from the two-week quarantine period that has been in place since March.
Blair is one of five federal ministers or officials who can grant ministerial exemptions for individuals when it is deemed to be in the national interest. The others are Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne, Health Minister of Patty Hajdu, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino and Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam.
Blair said today Uihlein did not receive one of these exemptions.
CBSA border agents also have the power to decide whether travel is essential or discretionary. An internal CBSA document obtained by Radio-Canada in June offered some insight into how agents make those decisions.
Uihlein and her husband are currently the top donors to the Republican party.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford reacted to the news of Uihlein’s exemption early this morning, saying that there should be one rule for everyone no matter who they are.
“I don’t care if you have 50 cents or you have $10 billion. It doesn’t make a difference. You know, the rules are the rules and they have to follow the rules and regulations,” the premier said.
Ford says he wants all non-essential foreign visitors to “treat our rules with respect” and stay away from Ontario until it’s safe for the province to welcome them back with open arms.