The one good factor that Dean Nixon can say about his jail is that it has a view.
From the balcony of his small, fourth-floor condo, the Guelph, Ont., resident can see the open countryside. In a position, not less than, to think about freedom, if not expertise it.
Nixon, a 46-year-old horse coach and Stage 4 most cancers affected person, resides in a bureaucratic limbo, obliged to self-isolate for the approaching yr whereas in Canada because of the nation’s COVID-19 quarantine restrictions.
So far as border and well being officers are involved, Nixon poses a hazard as a result of he should journey to the US twice a month for a life-saving therapy that is not obtainable in Canada. And in keeping with present laws, he has to self-isolate in his condo for 14 days each time he returns, leading to a perpetual quarantine.
“It is extraordinarily irritating,” Nixon mentioned final week, standing on his balcony together with his canine, Jeanna, as he spoke to a reporter on the sidewalk, 4 storeys beneath. “The one factor I am responsible of is attempting to avoid wasting my life.
“We now have individuals recurrently crossing the border for work. We now have American executives coming into Canada who’re allowed to circumnavigate necessary quarantine. I am attempting to determine how a truck driver, or a nurse, poses much less of a menace to the general public well being than I do, once I’m a part of the at-risk inhabitants.”
Nixon was first recognized with anal most cancers within the spring of 2016, and by that fall, the illness had metastasized, spreading to his liver. His medical doctors in Ontario might solely provide extra chemotherapy, and faint hope. So Nixon searched the web and located an experimental program for sufferers with human papillomavirus-related cancers being run by the U.S. Nationwide Institutes of Well being (NIH) in Bethesda, Md.
Docs there enrolled him in a year-long trial of a brand new immunotherapy drug beginning in early 2017. Nixon’s most cancers went into remission, however returned just a few months after the therapy ended. He went again on the drug for an additional yr originally of 2019, with equally promising outcomes. However a follow-up scan this previous July found new tumours, and in early October he started yet one more spherical of remedies — requiring 26 visits to the US over the course of the approaching yr.
Exemption for therapy in Canada, however not for many who go overseas
Nixon is often overseas for lower than 48 hours. He wears a masks every time he is in public, retains his distance and washes his fingers ceaselessly. He stays at a Maryland Airbnb that caters to NIH sufferers, taking additional care to sanitize its rooms. And on the hospital’s sprawling campus, COVID-19 precautions are even stricter, with screening, necessary masks and gloves and restricted interplay with workers. Because the pandemic started in March the NIH has recorded only one coronavirus transmission at its campus.
However none of this has made an impression on Canadian border brokers or with officers from the Public Well being Company of Canada (PHAC), who’ve thus far refused to exempt Nixon from following the necessary, 14-day quarantine every time he returns house. His newest crossing and self-isolation order got here on Nov. 18.
He finds the scenario particularly galling provided that individuals who journey to Canada to obtain medical therapy do not need to self-isolate. Greater than 5 million federal quarantine exemptions have been handed out since final March, largely to important employees corresponding to truckers, nurses and technicians. However company titans are receiving them too, as detailed in a collection of current CBC Information Investigations which have uncovered discretionary enterprise journeys by senior U.S. executives.
“There’s actually no consideration for what my routine could be like, the place I stay, my scenario….” Nixon mentioned. “On a private degree, it means I can not go to buddies, household, cannot take my canine for a stroll, cannot be out within the open air, cannot train…. It leaves me alone right here to take a seat and take into consideration my illness. Which isn’t an ideal factor.”
Unable to work and dealing with monetary damage
The quarantine can also be interfering together with his livelihood — coaching standardbred harness racing horses. The farm the place his operation relies is only a seven-minute drive from his condo, however he hasn’t been in a position to go to because the starting of October. As an alternative he tries to maintain abreast of how the horses are working, consuming and behaving through telephone calls and textual content messages together with his employed hand. He is already misplaced two shoppers and fears that extra would possibly observe.
“[The horses] do not converse. So the No. 1 instrument at our disposal is to have the ability to monitor the animals. And if you cannot observe them, you possibly can’t do your job,” mentioned Nixon.
Over the previous six weeks, Nixon has tried reaching out to his native Liberal MP, the Canadian Human Rights Fee and the Canadian Most cancers Society for help. To date, nobody has been in a position to assist. He has additionally appealed to PHAC for a particular exemption however has been rejected.
In an electronic mail despatched earlier this week, the federal well being company advised Nixon that quarantine exemptions “are purposefully restricted to attenuate the introduction and unfold of COVID-19” and that he’s unlikely to qualify for one.
“Sadly, there aren’t any exemptions for travellers returning to Canada from receiving medical therapy within the U.S.,” reads the observe.
CBC Information contacted the Canada Border Providers Company and PHAC about Nixon’s case, asking why the medical exemptions stream in just one path. The CBSA mentioned that it solely enforces the principles as set out by the Public Well being Company of Canada and the federal authorities. PHAC has but to supply a remark or rationalization.
No selection however to hunt therapy in U.S.
Dr. Julius Strauss, who oversees Nixon’s therapy on the NIH’s Scientific Heart, says he worries about how his affected person will deal with the consequences of a year-long lockdown.
“I’m involved about Mr. Nixon’s psychological well being, about being locked down with this prognosis and never having any capacity to work together,” Strauss mentioned.
“I perceive the security precautions, but in addition have issues about his monetary hardships, as a result of he isn’t in a position to do his regular job.”
The immunotherapy is Nixon’s solely viable selection, says the physician.
“It’s important for him, this therapy,” Strauss mentioned. “It isn’t experimental for him. As a result of for him, we all know it really works.”
Nixon is not positive if he is the one one dealing with such a cross-border dilemma. There aren’t any different Canadians at the moment receiving therapy on the NIH. And nobody has come ahead within the affected person assist boards he posts to.
Nixon’s objective is to sometime arrange a gaggle to assist extra Canadians entry international scientific trials. However first he should discover a technique to navigate the pandemic and its restrictions.
“If I do not go to the States, I will not get therapy and I am going to most likely die. If I do not go to work, I can not afford to go to the States and I am going to most likely die,” he mentioned.
His needs are so simple as the federal government laws are advanced.
“I actually simply would really like to have the ability to go to work, perhaps take my canine for a stroll, and that is about it. I am not asking for lots. What they’re asking, I believe, is significantly extra.”