A fully vaccinated Manitoba woman and her daughter face hefty fines after a trip to the Caribbean last month.
Canada requires travelers to show proof of a recent negative molecular test for people to re-enter the country from abroad.
But in this case, the women said their results were not accepted at the border because of where the tests were taken.
“Never before has it been said, ‘No, this is not acceptable,'” said Susan McKillop of Stonewall, Man. who, along with her daughter, was fined $8,500 as she attempted to return to Canada. “So we were quite surprised at the border.”
Five days before Canada’s non-essential travel advisory went into effect, McKillop, who had recently recovered from a head-on collision, drove with her daughter to Fargo, ND and they flew to Aruba .
They spent about a week soaking up the views and basking in the warmth before heading back to Canada via the United States.
The fully vaccinated women underwent PCR testing in Aruba on December 17 before their flight back to Fargo on December 18.
McKillop said that on December 19, within 72 hours of their tests, which were negative, they drove to the Canadian border at Emerson, Man. where they got the nasty surprise — fines of $8,500 each under the Federal Quarantine Act.
“Over the course of two hours, he had to come back and say, ‘Well, that’s because you didn’t have the PCR test in the United States,'” McKillop said.
She said they weren’t given the option to go back and get tested in the US, but were sent home with tests to take on their own which also came back negative. .
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) said in a statement that it does not issue fines.
“When questions arise regarding a traveller’s quarantine plan, health status or documentation of molecular tests, CBSA border services officers refer the traveler to a PHAC quarantine officer who will make a decision on the next steps,” the CBSA said.
In a statement, the Public Health Agency of Canada said that while it cannot comment on specific cases, the fine for violating Section 58 of the Quarantine Act is $5,000, plus applicable provincial fees.
“Prior to December 21, when entering Canada via the United States by land, the pre-entry molecular test had to be performed in the United States. As of December 21, the requirement is simply that the pre-entry molecular testing be performed outside of Canada,” the statement read.
Mary Jane Hiebert, president of the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies, said the fine was high, but believes the problem stems from the time the women have been in the United States.
“If they would have flown from Aruba through the United States to Canada without exiting that airport in the United States, they are in transit and then this Aruba test should have worked,” Hiebert said.
Hiebert said many people are postponing trips, but travelers choosing to go abroad may face challenges amid a crush of omicron cases.
She said it’s important to have insurance in case you catch COVID while traveling and have to stay longer than planned.
“There is an insurance policy that you can purchase when you are at your destination and you contract COVID and need to quarantine that those expenses are covered,” Hiebert said.
Susan Postma, regional manager for CAA Manitoba, said it’s important to ask about insurance coverage before you travel.
“When there are active notices, there are different coverage parameters that would be supported by an insurance policy,” Postma said. “It’s very unique for the traveler.”
McKillop and his daughter thought their Aruba results would be accepted and saw nowhere in the rules that a US-specific test was required to re-enter Canada.
At the time, Canada allowed residents who traveled to the United States for less than 72 hours to return without proof of a negative PCR test.
“We couldn’t find anything saying you can’t enter from another country without having another PCR test,” McKillop said.
Despite the fines, McKillop does not regret going there.
She said they had hired a lawyer and planned to challenge their tickets.