5,000 travelers who defied hotel quarantine rules faced big fines, but no signs of fines in Alberta
Anu Khullar says she was shocked at how easy it was to refuse to self-quarantine in a hotel after landing in Calgary on June 20, following a trip to Honduras.
She has not received refoulement or fines, she said.
“There were two policemen standing there and they just smiled at me and said, ‘Hello’,” said Khullar, who lives in Edmonton and owns a house in Honduras.
“I got my luggage, I got my car, I went home, everything went well.”
Canada’s hotel quarantine requirement for international air passengers ended in August, but it remains controversial. Indeed, while more than 5,000 airline passengers who refused to self-quarantine in a hotel were fined, others who broke the rule suffered no repercussions.
“It was not a program that was somehow delivered fairly, necessarily, at all levels,” said Cara Zwibel, director of the fundamental freedoms program for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
CBC News has found no evidence that hotel quarantine fines were imposed on air passengers who landed in Calgary, and has so far found evidence of only two fines imposed on arrivals in Montreal . Calgary and Montreal are two of four cities – along with Vancouver and Toronto – where international passengers could land while the hotel quarantine rule was in effect, from Feb.22 to Aug.8.
The absence of fines imposed on Calgary does not mean that all Calgary arrivals have obeyed the rules. Seven travelers told CBC News they landed in the city, refused to self-quarantine at a hotel and received no fines.
“It was way too easy,” Khullar said.
Khullar said she didn’t feel the need to quarantine herself in a hotel because she was fully vaccinated and could do her full 14-day quarantine in her empty home.
Its first flight back to Canada was to land in Vancouver. But Khullar said she moved her arrival city to Calgary after reading dozens of social media posts from people who said they landed in Calgary, refused to go to a quarantine hotel and didn’t have not received a fine.
“It was an absolute joke,” Khullar said. You might as well say, ‘Okay everyone, just come back to Alberta. You don’t have to worry about a single fine. “”
Who can impose fines in Calgary?
The federal government has created its hotel quarantine program to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The program required international air passengers to do part of their quarantine at a designated hotel while awaiting their COVID-19 test results after arrival. Passengers had to pay the hotel bill, which could reach $ 2,000.
The Public Health Agency of Canada has released files of 5,538 fines imposed on airline passengers who refused to self-quarantine in a hotel. They range from $ 3,000 to $ 5,000 plus additional fees.
Almost all of the fines were imposed on travelers who landed in Toronto (4,850) and Vancouver (685). The other three concerned arrivals in Montreal. However, PHAC clarified in a footnote that it is not known whether these three cases actually resulted in fines.
None of the fines were imposed in Calgary.
According to Statistics Canada, 434,210 non-essential air passengers entered Canada from March through June, the busiest months for the hotel quarantine program. Of this total, 225,809 landed in Toronto, 94,084 in Montreal, 80,722 in Vancouver and 33,595 in Calgary.
PHAC told CBC News that its agents could not impose fines on hotel quarantine violators in Alberta because the province never passed the federal Contraventions Act. But the agency said Alberta police could issue fines and suggested checking with police for up-to-date statistics.
Alberta RCMP and Calgary Police told CBC News they did not impose such fines.
In MayCalgary Police said that because the Contraventions Act does not apply in Alberta, they do not have the direct power to impose fines on hotel quarantine violators. Instead, they could only investigate a case if they received a complaint.
Fines in Quebec?
CBC News also heard from five travelers who said they had landed in Montreal, refused to self-quarantine in a hotel and have not yet been fined.
Synthia Vignola flew to Montreal from Colombia on March 21. Vignola said she refused to go to a quarantine hotel because she felt safer isolating herself at her home in Sainte-Marthe, Que.
Vignola said a federal government official at the airport told her she would be fined in the mail. More than five months later, no fines have arrived, she said.
“I’m not surprised,” Vignola said. “Many people [broke the rules]. Nobody gets anything. “
However, following the publication of this story, CBC News confirmed that a couple who landed in Montreal on May 9 and refused to self-quarantine were ultimately fined in the mail – on August 27.
PHAC has said its officers cannot directly issue fines to quarantined offenders who landed in Montreal because, in Quebec, these types of fines can only be imposed by provincial prosecutors.
Quebec’s Office of the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP) told CBC News it was unable to provide specific data on the number of fines it has imposed on quarantine violators. hotels. The DPCP said people can be fined up to a year after committing a violation.
“I don’t pay it”
It’s a different story for airline passengers who landed in Vancouver and Toronto and refused to self-quarantine in a hotel.
CBC News interviewed eight travelers who were directly fined $ 3,450 to $ 6,255 by airport authorities in Vancouver or Toronto. They each said they plan to challenge their fine in court and feel it is unfair to have to pay when other travelers have not experienced any repercussions.
“I’m not paying it, because it just makes absolutely no sense,” said Michael Allen of Windsor, Ont. The former CFL player turned organic greenhouse operator was fined $ 6,255 at the Toronto airport on July 8. He said he was returning from a business trip to Jamaica.
Allen said he refused to quarantine himself in a hotel because he felt it was best to do his full quarantine in his empty house.
He is now waiting to fight his fine in court.
“Some people are fined. Others don’t. … There is no consistency, ”said Allen, who also pointed out that travelers who entered Canada by land did not have to quarantine in a hotel.
“All of these things make it unfair. It’s just an unfair law.”
Attorney Zwibel said the inconsistency is one of the many reasons she believes the quarantine program was flawed and unnecessary.
“The reality is that the law cannot solve all problems, and this is one case where I think the law was not very effective,” she said. “There are other tools that probably work better, tools like public education.”
When asked about allegations that the hotel quarantine program was unfair because some travelers were not fined, PHAC reiterated that authorities in Alberta and Quebec have the power to impose fines .
The agency also said the hotel quarantine requirement was only implemented for international air passengers as, at the time, air travel made up most of the leisure travel, and travelers aircraft generally had higher COVID-19. test positivity rate than those who travel by land.