Canadians fined at least $15 million for breaking COVID quarantine rules


Until October, travelers were required to follow testing and quarantine rules, depending on their vaccination status

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OTTAWA — Canadians caught violating federal COVID-19 quarantine rules have racked up at least $15 million in fines this year, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, but it’s unclear how much it will actually pay.

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The agency provided data to the House of Commons in the fall in response to a request from Conservative MP Eric Duncan.

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Duncan did not respond to a request for comment.

This year has seen the widespread lifting of health restrictions related to COVID-19 in Canada. Until October, travelers had to follow testing and quarantine rules, depending on their vaccination status, and upload their public health information through the ArriveCan app.

The rules evolved over the year as public health officials responded to changing levels of COVID-19 cases. The ongoing restrictions have also caused frustration among some travelers and those in the tourism industry, who said there was a negative effect on business.

Data from the Public Health Agency of Canada includes British Columbia, Ontario, Manitoba and Atlantic Canada. It does not include information from Saskatchewan, Alberta or the territories because those jurisdictions had not passed the necessary legislation for the fines to be imposed. Its province-by-province breakdown also excludes Quebec, where fines are imposed by provincial prosecutors.

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Between January and August, 3,614 tickets were distributed under the Federal Quarantine Act – a law the federal government has used to institute border measures to stem the spread of the virus.

These fines totaled $14.8 million, the amounts varying, depending on the offence, from $825 to $5,000. A single ticket can sometimes include several offences.

Most of the fines were imposed in Ontario, which is not only the largest province in terms of population, but also home to the country’s busiest airport and land border crossing with the United States. A total of 2,672 tickets were distributed over the eight month period.

In comparison, 709 were distributed in British Columbia and 210 in Manitoba. No one was convicted in Newfoundland and Labrador or Prince Edward Island, while 21 fines were imposed in New Brunswick and two in Nova Scotia.

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The data is just a snapshot in time and the agency says more tickets were issued in September. He also notes that the police are not required to report law enforcement activity, so his data may be incomplete.

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The public health agency’s website shows nearly 19,000 tickets have been given out for federal quarantine violations since COVID-19 hit in 2020.

But the Public Health Agency of Canada does not verify whether these fines are actually paid.

« Once issued, ticket payments and disputes are processed through the provincial court systems of the relevant jurisdictions, » Health Canada spokesperson Tammy Jarbeau said in a written statement.

The Ontario government was unable to provide statistics in time. But very few of the tickets issued under the federal quarantine law in British Columbia have been paid.

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In the case of 765 of the 3,267 tickets in total, the individual was found guilty. Only 97 of those tickets have been paid for so far, amounting to nearly $300,000.

That leaves over $3.5 million in fines unpaid.

Another 638 tickets are being challenged in court, according to data provided by the province’s Department of Justice, which also noted that more than 1,700 tickets have been successfully challenged or canceled, or are still pending.

In New Brunswick, 15 of the 34 Quarantine Act tickets issued in 2021 and 2022 have been withdrawn and 11 more are listed as outstanding.

And in Manitoba — where the government provides data online for the period April 2020 to December 2022 — 94 of 345 active tickets remain unpaid.

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Manitoba’s figures also illustrate a discrepancy between the fines that are issued and what ends up being paid, as the courts can reduce, dismiss or stay a ticket.

While about $9.3 million in fines were issued for violations of provincial and federal rules, only about $905,000 was collected.

The most common federal COVID-19 offense in 2022 was travelers entering the country « without pre-arrival testing. » That brought in at least 1,634 tickets, according to the federal public health agency.

All travelers entering Canada were required to provide a negative COVID-19 test from an approved laboratory until April, when the government dropped this requirement for fully vaccinated people. It remained in place for those who did not have a Health Canada-approved vaccine for most of the year.

Other common offenses include refusing to answer questions from a public health officer and failing to submit to on-arrival testing.

Overall, people who travel to the country by car have committed more offenses than those who arrive by air.

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