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Luke Sauve and his wife, Raissa, depart for Bulgaria Thursday evening to pick up their adopted son and when they return at month’s end, they will be forced to stay in a COVID hotel, even though their little one suffers from Down Syndrome.

After many efforts to get an answer from government officials at the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) over the past few weeks, an email from PHAC arrived Tuesday afternoon indicating their new four-year-old son, Emir, would be “exempt from testing requirements” but he and his wife would not be exempt from quarantine rules.

The lengthy email, which refers to all the rules in place, says based on an “assessment” of the exemptions in place, his family would likely not “qualify for an exemption from quarantine requirements including the three-night (hotel) stopover.”

However, the email — signed by the Emergency Orders and Policy Interpretation team — says a “quarantine officer may release” them from the requirement to quarantine in a COVID hotel, but these requests will be “assessed on a case-by-case basis.”


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Sauve, who calls the decision “very unfortunate but not surprising,” told me Tuesday they weren’t trying to get out of the requirement to quarantine.

But he feels it will be “traumatic” enough for Emir to be introduced to new parents he has never met, taken on an airplane for more than 10 hours and be subject to three different crowded airports en route to Toronto — without a three-day stay in a strange hotel.

He added that being exposed to a hotel full of travellers could be more harmful to Emir, who with Down Syndrome is more susceptible to COVID-19.

“Our goal is to mitigate his exposure,” he said.

Sauve and his wife said they feel he will be safer quarantining for 14 days at their home.

He noted that he will be forced to book the hotel for a few thousand dollars and possibly find out they’re exempt at the last minute, which will mean they’ll lose their hotel payments.

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“It seems a very convoluted and chaotic structure in which nobody seems to know how to deal with specific situations,” he said.

He said Emir doesn’t speak, is “pretty delayed” and has been living in an orphanage for most of his short life.

“We’re pretty excited about it (the adoption),” says Sauve, who runs LOV restaurant in downtown Toronto.

They’ll be picking up their new son, who is in a small town outside of Sofia, on Monday.

He said their trip is not a vacation; they have to travel to Bulgaria to meet with a lawyer to finalize all the required paperwork for Emir. They’re tentatively set to return on March 27, depending on how quickly that goes.


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Sauve said nobody seemed to have answers about a possible hotel quarantine exemption due to their situation, and he got caught in a game of “pass the buck.”

He said he called PHAC three times and one gentleman who came on the line was “eating while he answered the call” and abruptly got rid of him.

At CBSA, he spoke with a “wonderful gentleman” who said it was a “big grey area.”

He was shuttled back and forth from PHAC to CBSA during phone calls and repeatedly referred to a link about exemptions for compassionate reasons, which are not applicable to them.

The response I received from PHAC was pretty much the same in which links were provided to the rules and the orders-in-council passed related to restrictions for entry into Canada.

Spokesperson Maryse Durette said that PHAC does not comment and will not speculate on “examples provided of scenarios where individuals were either allowed or denied entry” to the country.

“Each traveller who presents themselves to a border services officer does so under a different set of circumstances and is processed based on the information available at the time they are seeking entry to Canada,” she said.

  1. There were long lines of passengers heading to hotels to quarantine on March 1, 2021. Veronica Henri/Toronto Sun/

    Legal challenge launched against mandatory hotel stay for travellers

  2. Toronto nurse Jessica Faraone is pictured on the balcony of her condo on March 7., 2021. She is in quarantine at home after returning last week from Tanzania where she volunteered at a medical clinic. Photographer Jack Boland took this picture from the ground while Faraone stood on her fourth-floor balcony.

    BRAUN: Nurse tells why she refused to wear mask, COVID test at airport

  3. People walk towards Terminal 1 at Toronto's Pearson Airport after mandatory coronavirus (COVID-19) testing took effect for international arrivals February 15, 2021.

    Feds release list of air traveller COVID quarantine hotels

But Sauve suggests there are cases, like theirs, that don’t fall into the typical guidelines.

“This isn’t for fun,” he said. “That’s our struggle.”


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