Nova Scotia

Border restrictions 'punch to the gut' for those looking to move to N.S.

Families in the process of moving to Nova Scotia are confused and upset as they face the possibility of being homeless as new restrictions come into effect next week.

Many families say they're left in limbo as they fear not being able to move into N.S.

Families from Ontario and other provinces are left in limbo with new Nova Scotia restrictions stating no one can move into the province starting this Monday, until at least the end of the month.

Andrew Turner and his wife, Karen MacRae, are surrounded by cardboard boxes as they pack up their home in Huntsville, Ont.

They are moving to a small town outside of Halifax, to be closer to Turner's parents. The sale on their new place closed March 1, and the moving trucks are booked to bring their possessions to their new home May 31. 

But on Friday they suddenly were unsure whether they'd be allowed to move into their new home in Nova Scotia as planned at the end of the month because of new lockdown measures that were announced.

As of 8 a.m. Monday, the Nova Scotia border is closed to anyone moving to the province, even if they had been previously approved.

But in a press conference Monday, following a weekend of criticism from people in the midst of moving to Nova Scotia, Premier Iain Rankin announced that compassionate exemptions will be made for exceptional circumstances. He said he understood that the restrictions are creating hardships for many people.

"We recognize there needs to be some flexibility around previously agreed upon dates, and we don't want you to be homeless," Rankin said.

Those exemptions include:

  • A purchase or sale agreement for a property purchase in 2021 showing that an offer has been accepted on or before April 21 and closing date is on or before May 20.
  • A minimum one-year lease signed on or before April 21 and beginning on or before May 20.
  • A letter of acceptance for new employment in Nova Scotia that cannot be done virtually or deferred; and the letter must be dated on or before May 7.

Rankin said anyone currently buying a home in Nova Scotia or looking to rent an apartment are asked to push their closing dates out past June 1.

The province said instructions for applying for an exception will be posted on their website here by the end of day Monday.  Anyone moving to Nova Scotia must still complete their two-week quarantine.

Andrew Turner, (left, and wife Karen MacRae are moving from their Huntsville, Ont., home on May 31, but are unsure about how their situation applies to the latest Nova Scotia restrictions on people moving into the province. (Andrew Turner)

Based on their closing date in early March, Turner could qualify for an exemption. But also said he's worried about people who don't fall under these dates.

"Could you imagine showing up with your family and, like, your little car and then them going, 'Well, no, you can't get in.' You're like, 'Well, then what do we do?' Like, we literally don't have a home to go to," Turner said Saturday.

Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, said Friday the tight border restrictions will be in place until at least the end of May. He also said he's aware people have been forging emails to get across the border that appear to come from Strang's office. 

After Friday's announcement, Turner was sent an email from the province saying his original paperwork was cancelled and he'd need to fill out a new Nova Scotia Safe Check-in Form.

But when filling out the new paperwork Saturday morning, Turner found they fell within a provincial exemption, and would be allowed to move in, since they bought their house March 1.

Faced with contradictory information, Turner wasn't clear what to do.

"I'm a Nova Scotian guy that just wants to move home, and I'm happy to sit in quarantine outside the province, at the border, or in our house which is what we made plans to do," Turner said.

"We need clarity, and I think that's what everybody's looking for — a very clear, definitive path to go from A to B."

The new restrictions come at a time when Nova Scotia is dealing with the highest daily cases of COVID-19 of the pandemic, mostly driven by aggressive variants of the virus, and more and more people being admitted to intensive care.

On Friday, a provincial high of 227 new cases was announced, as well as more than 200 other cases that have been identified but have not been fully processed by Public Health.

The province reported 163 new cases on Saturday, as well as the death of a man in his 70s in the central zone. There are now 1,538 active cases in the province.

Turner and others moving to Nova Scotia say they take the virus extremely seriously, are willing to follow the rules but need to know what to do.

Sarah Cowans is also worried about her family's upcoming move from Oakville, Ont., to the Halifax area.

Sarah Cowans, right, and her husband are worried about what to do when they're out of their home in Ontario on June 1, and are facing expensive options like renting in Ontario or isolating at a Nova Scotia hotel. (Sarah Cowans)

She and her family have to be out of their current home on June 1, and were then planning to pack up their two young children, two dogs and the family's possessions and drive to Nova Scotia.

Cowans is also originally from Nova Scotia and has lots of family in the Halifax area. There is an empty family home available in Lawrencetown until they close on their new house for July 15.

But with Friday's announcement, Cowans said they're put into a "really awful position" with nowhere to go as of June 1.

"I'm pretty upset. I was pretty frustrated yesterday ... to find out that we may be turned away, or forced to kind of quarantine in a hotel was pretty much a punch to the gut," she said.

It's unclear right now whether the restrictions will still be in place by June. 

If they risk driving anyway, Cowans said they could have to isolate in an approved quarantine spot like a hotel at their own expense, which is not ideal with animals, young kids and a truck full of furniture. Or they might have to rent in Ontario until things become clearer.

"Financially … it would be an impact on us. But also just … mentally and physically, we're already kind of in this limbo position," Cowans said.

The new restriction has also caught the eye of Ontario lawyer James Coulter.

In a letter to Rankin dated Saturday, Coulter said he's concerned about the province blocking out people who have the proper paperwork to show they own property in Nova Scotia.

"A 'blanket' restriction on travel for newcomers induced to change residency to Nova Scotia is patently unfair," Coulter wrote.

He also said the travel restrictions are non-compliant with every Canadian citizen's rights to mobility under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.