Sarah Leamon: Answers to 11 travellers' questions about the Quarantine Act

The legislation allows for someone to be jailed for up to six months and face fines up to $750,000

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      It comes as no surprise that international travel has changed in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Now that our borders with the United States are open again for discretionary travel, many Canadians are wondering what requirements they will have to comply with in order to cross the border.

      The Quarantine Act lays out the rules and regulations with respect to entering Canada from a foreign country, whether it is by land, air or sea. The objective of the Quarantine Act is to reduce the introduction and further spread of COVID-19 and new variants of the virus into Canada by decreasing the risk of introducing new cases from outside the country.

      But it is a dense document, that can be difficult to understand—and getting it wrong can come with some serious consequences. This article answers some of your most frequently asked questions about the Quarantine Act.

      1. Who is considered to be fully vaccinated under the Quarantine Act?

      Fully vaccinated travellers may have fewer requirements and restrictions than those who are unvaccinated.
      In order to be considered fully vaccinated, you must have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and you must have received the second does at least 14 days before entering Canada.

      2. What is the legal definition of a COVID molecular test?

      You must have proof of a COVID-19 molecular test prior to entering the country.

      According to the law, a COVID molecular test is a screening or diagnostic test carried out by an accredited laboratory. Both the PCR test and the reverse transcription loop-mediated test, otherwise known as an RT-LAMP test, are accepted.

      It is important to note that test results must be presented to a border guard in either French or English. If they are not in one of our official languages, then they must be translated by an accredited translator or translation service and proof of such accreditation must be shown.

      3. How can I make a suitable quarantine plan before re-entering Canada?

      Before crossing the border, you need to have a suitable quarantine plan in place, should you need it.

      A suitable quarantine plan needs a few things to pass muster. Perhaps most importantly, you must be able to provide an address to a place where you can quarantine for the 14-day isolation period, if required. You must also provide your contact information.

      The location where you plan to quarantine must allow you to avoid contact with all persons, unless you travelled with them. It must also have access to a bedroom and all of the necessities of life without having to leave the location.

      4. Who is considered exempt under the Quarantine Act?

      Not every traveller is subject to the Quarantine Act. Some people are exempt from many of the requirements under the Quarantine Act, including the requirement to undergoing COVID-19 molecular testing prior to entering the country.

      People under the age of five years are exempt, as are crew members on flights, trains and other modes of transport. Other examples include a person permitted to work in Canada as an emergency-service provider, such as a firefighter, peace officer or paramedic, who is returning to Canada after providing emergency services in a foreign country.

      Those who enter Canada regularly to go to their place of normal employment or who are returning from their place of normal employment in a foreign country are also exempt—subject to some restrictions.

      5. If I get a ticket while crossing the border or after entering Canada, can I dispute it?

      Yes. You have a right to dispute any allegation made against you by the state and Quarantine Act tickets are no exception! Generally speaking, you have 30 days to file your ticket into dispute. However, you should check the fine print on your ticket in order to be certain. If in doubt, contact a lawyer to assist you.

      6. Can I be represented by a lawyer?

      Some legal venues, like the Civil Resolution Tribunal, preclude people from being represented by legal counsel. That’s not the case here. You have the right to be represented by a lawyer for any COVID-related allegations. However, if you feel more comfortable representing yourself, you can choose that route as well.

      7. What happens after I dispute my ticket?

      After disputing your ticket, you can expect to receive a confirmation of the dispute. You should get that right away. After that, it’s a bit of a waiting game.

      A court date will eventually be assigned to you. You will need to keep a close eye on your mailbox in order to get this date and make sure not to miss it. This is an initial appearance date. It is not a trial date.

      If you are representing yourself, you will have to attend court yourself. If you have a lawyer, it is likely that your lawyer will attend on your behalf but you should be sure to discuss this with them ahead of time.

      8. Who prosecutes my ticket and where will it be heard?

      Although police officers and bylaw officers often prosecute their own tickets under various provincial legislative schemes, Quarantine Act tickets will be different. They will be dealt with by lawyers at the Public Prosecution Service of Canada. As far as we currently know, these tickets will be heard by Provincial Court judges in provincial courts across British Columbia.

      9. What happens after the first court date?

      Although procedures are still being developed, it seems as though tickets will be adjourned for 60 to 90 days after the first appearance date. This will allow time for you or your lawyer to get disclosure material from the Crown prosecutor and to read and understand the case against you. When your matter appears back in court again, it will be either for trial or to enter a plea.

      10 What kind of penalties could I face?

      Penalties under the Quarantine Act can be severe. Travellers who contravene the Act could face fines up to $750,000 or spend six months in jail. These, however, are extreme examples. The vast majority of people ticketed under this Act will face lesser penalties.

      11. How can I avoid getting a ticket in the first place?

      You should take all necessary steps prior to travelling in order to make sure that you understand what is required of you upon your return to Canada and what you need to do to bring yourself into compliance with the act.