The Honourable Marco E. L. Mendicino, P.C., M.P., Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship in Canada, issued the following statement yesterday, effectively blocking Toronto Blue Jays from hosting Major League Baseball games in Canada:
“Over the last several weeks, the Government of Canada has worked closely with Major League Baseball and all levels of government to develop a safe restart plan for play, while putting in place strict health protocols and effectively managing the borders in order to protect the health and safety of Canadians throughout COVID-19.
“As part of MLB’s restart plan, the Public Health Agency of Canada initially assessed their proposal to allow the Toronto Blue Jays to hold preseason training on their home-field in Canada. The core elements of the proposal required Toronto Blue Jays personnel to remain isolated within the Rogers Centre and adjacent facilities during preseason training. Most importantly, all Toronto Blue Jays training would be at the Rogers Centre and there would be no cross-border travel for either the Blue Jays outside of Canada or any opponent team into Canada for the duration of preseason training.
“Based on these conditions, and with the agreement of provincial and municipal health authorities, PHAC concluded MLB and the Toronto Blue Jays had a robust plan to mitigate the risk of importation and spread of COVID-19 in Canada for the preseason.
“The MLB and Toronto Blue Jays were then issued a National Interest Exemption Letter, permitting players and staff to enter Canada for preseason training only.
“Following that decision, the Government of Canada continued discussions with the MLB and Toronto Blue Jays regarding the regular season that would have the team play home games at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. However, unlike preseason training, regular season games would require repeated cross-border travel of Blue Jays players and staff, as well as opponent teams into and out of Canada. Of particular concern, the Toronto Blue Jays would be required to play in locations where the risk of virus transmission remains high.
“Based on the best-available public health advice, we have concluded the cross-border travel required for MLB regular season play would not adequately protect Canadians’ health and safety. As a result, Canada will not be issuing a National Interest Exemption for the MLB’s regular season at this time.
“We have shared this news with the Blue Jays organization. We remain open to considering future restart plans for the post-season should the risk of virus transmission diminish. We wish the Blue Jays the best of luck as they start the regular season.
“Canada has been able to flatten the curve in large part because of the sacrifices Canadians have made. We understand professional sports are important to the economy and to Canadians. At the same time, our government will continue to take decisions at the border on the basis of the advice of our health experts in order to protect the health and safety of all Canadians”.