Easing border restrictions bring legal U.S. travellers

Megan Walchuk

Not all U.S. plates spell trouble.

Although some local residents are on edge after two U.S. residents broke quarantine shortly after entering the country through Fort Frances, the OPP are reminding the public that U.S. plated vehicles aren’t necessarily a cause for concern. According to OPP media relations officer A/Sgt Petrina Taylor-Hertz, the OPP has had an uptick of reports of foreign plates, as border restrictions ease.

“You can call, and we can look into it, but it doesn’t mean they’re doing anything wrong,” she said.

In the recent case, a couple in their 60’s from Excelsior, Minn., crossed at the Fort Frances bridge on June 24. Within an hour, their car was spotted by an OPP officer in a store parking lot. When the officer called the Canadian Border Services Agency as a precaution and learned that the couple was supposed to be under quarantine, they were charged under the Quarantine Act, which carries a $1,000 fine each. They had been instructed at the border to proceed directly to their place of quarantine without making any stops, and remain there in isolation for 14 days.

According to Taylor-Hertz, the OPP is unaware of the nationality of the couple, or under what circumstances the couple were permitted entry, but were informed that the couple owns a second home in Canada, and have made their way there.

“They were allowed in and are here legally,” she said.

The OPP are reminding the public to take the Quarantine Act seriously.

“Legislation is in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect the public by mitigating risk of exposure,” said an OPP press release.

Although the CBSA is unable to comment on specific cases, they noted “there may be a legitimate reason for the presence of a U.S.-plated vehicle in Canada such as essential workers, immediate family members or transiting individuals. Canadian citizens, including those who hold dual citizenship, permanent residents and Registered Indians under the Indian Act continue to enter Canada by right.”

However, all individuals entering from the U.S. – even Canadian citizens – with the exception of essential workers, are required by law to quarantine for 14 days, according to CBSA media relations.

“All persons who are deemed to be non-essential entering Canada – no matter their country of origin or mode of entry – must isolate themselves for 14 days if they have symptoms of or confirmed COVID-19 or quarantine themselves for 14 days if they do not have symptoms of COVID-19. All travellers (asymptomatic and symptomatic) are required to provide their contact information using the Traveller Contact Information Form (paper or online), the ArriveCAN mobile application, or to the border services officer verbally (land mode only) and enforce the 14-day quarantine or isolation requirement. All information collected in the Traveller Contact Information Form is provided to the Public Health Agency of Canada.”

Those who enter are required to wear masks while they transit to their place of quarantine, and the destination must be deemed suitable.

“For example, it is not a shelter or other place where many people could be newly exposed by nature of the individual staying there, where they can get the necessities of life and are not in contact with vulnerable persons,” said the CBSA.

Once granted entry to Canada, the task of monitoring the individual lies with PHAC and the provincial health authorities. To report violations of the Quarantine Act, such as a breach of the mandatory 14-day quarantine, people should contact the PHAC or the OPP, according to the CBSA.
“CBSA officers remain vigilant and are highly trained to identify travellers seeking entry into Canada who may pose a health and safety risk,” said CBSA media relations personnel. “These measures complement routine traveller screening procedures already in place to prepare for, detect and respond to the spread of serious infectious diseases into and within Canada.”