OTTAWA—The federal minister of emergency preparedness says border guards have been advised that British Columbia residents can cross into the United States for essential supplies because of flooding in the province after some were reportedly facing fines or told they would have to quarantine on returning to Canada.
Bill Blair said the circumstances of those who received tickets for allegedly violating quarantine restrictions is also being reviewed by the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Ottawa approved an exemption from the B.C. government for travellers from specific areas along its south coast to travel to the U.S. to purchase gas or essential supplies and immediately return to Canada without providing a negative PCR test for the virus that causes COVID-19.
A statement from the Canada Border Services Agency says there can be a transition period that “may lead to some inconsistencies” when operational guidelines are changed.
The statement says it has also contacted the Public Health Agency of Canada, which will consider all available circumstances when enforcing the Quarantine Act.
The border agency says it doesn’t issue fines and decisions on any penalties under the Quarantine Act rest with the public health agency or police.
Media reports indicate some people have complained they faced fines and quarantine if they returned to Canada without a PCR test after crossing the border for essential supplies.
It notes that anyone who travels to the U.S. for a non-essential reason, to visit friends, eat at a restaurant or do holiday shopping would not be covered by the relaxed rules.
Blair says the travel exemption for essential supplies was appropriate, but it cannot be abused.
“It doesn’t include going to visit family and friends, engage in recreational activities and then gas up on the way back,” he told reporters in Ottawa.
Officers and public health agency representatives at border crossings must have the information they need to make the right decisions, said Blair, and “that clarity has been provided.”