Despite the Prime Minister’s monthly assurances that Canada’s borders are closed except to essential traffic, five Liberal MPs travelled outside Canada during the pandemic, according to statements from the Liberal Whip’s office and the Liberal MPs released Sunday evening.
The border closure has been in place since March and has been extended month to month, most recently on December 11, 2020 until January 21, 2021.
“We have committed to keeping Canadians safe and we keep extending the border closures because the States is not in a place where we would feel comfortable reopening those borders,” Prime Minister Trudeau told Canadians when extending the border closure in October.
The information on Liberal MPs’ travel comes amid wider public frustration with politicians violating the travel ban as the coronavirus continued to spread in Canada. Over 15,000 people in Canada have now died from a COVID-19 virus infection.
Two of the five MPs travelled during the Christmas break without the Liberals’ knowledge, according to their statements. Those two MPs, Ontario MP Kamal Khera and Quebec MP Sameer Zuberi, have been stripped of additional parliamentary roles but remain Liberal MPs.
In her statement, Khera said she believed it was essential to travel to Seattle, Washington over the Christmas break to join a family commemoration of her father and uncle, bother of which had died earlier in the year. In her statement, Khera did not apologize for her decision.
Despite the border closure, Zuberi travelled to the US state of Delaware, saying he visited with his wife’s grandfather, described as “ailing.” Zuberi’s statement, which apologized to his constituents for his travel, did not explain if the visit was exclusively with his wife’s grandfather or whether the grandfather was attending other holiday family gathers Zuberi joined in.
But in three cases, international travel appears to have been approved by Liberal whip Mark Holland despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s monthly assurances that Canada’s border was closed except to essential travel. Those MPs have not faced any party discipline.
In her statement, Quebec MP Patricia Lattanzio said her trip to Ireland was “essential and necessary” to assist her daughter’s move to Ireland to attend university and was approved by the Liberal whip.
Quebec Liberal MP Alexandria Mendes also travelled with Liberal approval. In her statement she said she believed it was essential she travel to Portugal to finalize “some legal elements” relating to the estate of her husband’s mother, who had recently died.
Mendes’ statement did not indicate why the “succession paperwork” of her mother-in-law’s estate could not be done with the aid of lawyers in Canada or why she needed to be involved in the legal issues of her husband’s mother’s estate.
Quebec MP Lyne Bessette was also approved to travel despite Canada’s closed border, saying she undertook an “essential trip” to Mexico and Massachusetts. Bessette said her parents travelled to Mexico in October, 2019 and returned in early March for unexplained health reasons, leaving behind belongings including a car and mobile home.
Bessette’s statement said her August travel was “absolutely necessary” to retrieve the car and mobile home and to stop in Massachusetts to finalize the sale of a home. The location of the home being sold was not disclosed.
In addition to the five Liberal MPs who travelled outside Canada despite the ban on non-essential travel, Conservative MP Ron Liepert and NDP MP Niki Ashton have recently come under fire for travelling despite border closures. Ashton was removed from her critic portfolios by NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, but Conservative leader Erin O’Toole is yet to comment on Liepert’s travel.
Ashton said she believed it was essential to travel to Greece to see an ailing grandmother. Leipert twice travelled to California for “essential home maintenance.”