In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic led to the closure of Canada’s international borders. This closure was not absolute; it was marked by several exceptions. Those exceptions were contained in a series of Orders-in-Council (OiCs) which became the government’s mechanism of choice for governing the border. OiCs are swift, efficient, and flexible legal instruments, which makes them well-suited to a public health emergency. We explore the nature, function and impact of regulating Canada’s borders through OiCs. Focusing on both the procedural and substantive dimensions of OiCs, we interrogate their potential political, legal, and social consequences. We draw on the theory of the emergency to unpack and illustrate how this unfolds, and to explain why it creates serious challenges for longer-term immigration regulation. We demonstrate how the use and content of OiCs has reignited reliance on status-based distinctions and harbours the potential for discrimination in immigration regulation.