End the Ebola visa ban

Canada’s Ebola visa ban is discriminatory and ineffective. Its cancellation is long overdue.

The visa policy — which currently bans residents of countries that have experienced persistent Ebola outbreaks, such as Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia from traveling to Canada — has remained intact despite continuous opposition from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The ban — which passed at the end of October — actually makes disease control more difficult, according to the WHO. It can compel people to travel illegally, which can cause viruses to spread.

The ban has prevented students from West African countries from attending Canadian post-secondary education institutions, despite their admission.

The policy made very little sense to begin with. Canadian residents are allowed to travel back and forth between West African countries and Canada — even healthcare workers helping with the Ebola effort, who have a higher likelihood of carrying the virus. As such, the ban discriminates solely against West African residents.

Until the government lifts the ban, or West African countries are officially deemed Ebola-free, intermediary measures could be introduced to prevent unnecessary discrimination.

Rather than banning students and other residents entirely, visas should be granted on a case-by-case basis after individuals are screened for the virus. Since travel between West Africa and Canada is already minimal, such screening measures are entirely feasible.

Journal Editorial Board

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