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Violating Canadian requirements when crossing the border comes with hefty fines, jail time

Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, Saturday, March 14, 2020. (Junfu Han/Detroit Free Press/TNS)
August 10, 2021

Attempts to skirt Canada’s requirements from Americans crossing the border by car when it opens Monday could result in hefty fines or jail time, the country’s government said.

Failure to comply with Canada’ current border-entry requirements and restrictions can result in up to six months in prison and $750,000 in fines, according to Rebecca Purdy, a Canada Border Security Agency spokesperson.

The country’s Quarantine Act grants officers “the authority to review, challenge and confirm travelers’ statements,” Purdy said.

If a person puts another at risk of imminent death or bodily harm in the process of violating the act, the punishment cap increases to up to $1 million in fines and three years in jail.

Decisions on whether to pursue fines or jail time for those who violate the public health provisions in place rests with either the Public Health Agency of Canada or local police, according to Purdy.

The border reopens for American citizens and permanent residents for the first time in 17 months on Monday with precautions in place.

Those attempting to cross the border must be fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior, show a negative, non-antigen COVID-19 test and be asymptomatic, among other requirements. These COVID-related mandates come on top of the typical for crossing, which include having a valid passport or enhanced license.

Canada also implemented a border surveillance program that will require additional, on-site COVID-19 testing for some travelers to track the spread of new variants. Those asked to participate are required to do so and could face punishment under the Quarantine Act if they do not.

Changes are also coming at Canadian airport. Only four major airports were accepting international flights until now: Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver.

On Monday, international flights will be permitted to land at the following five additional Canadian airports: Halifax Stanfield International Airport; Québec City Jean Lesage International Airport; Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport; Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport; and Edmonton International Airport.

The hotel quarantine is also lifted as of midnight Monday, though travelers should have a plan for isolation if they do get exposed or test positive for the virus.

The border reopening has not come without speed bumps.

A work slowdown led by the union representing Canadian border workers was resolved late Friday after an agreement was reached with the government. Trucks waited hours to cross the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit and Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron, among other entry points, while the slowdown was in effect.

Canada’s border reopening also comes before the U.S. opens its border to Canadians. Some Canadian leaders reported being “stunned” when they heard of the U.S.’s decision not to reopen on the same day, citing arguments from American politicians that the northern country was too slow in reopening.

Business leaders from both sides of the border also called for reciprocity at the border.

The U.S. border is expected to remain closed to Canadians through at least Aug. 21.

What to expect

Here’s what tourists should know before trying to visit across the Detroit River, the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron or the crossing in Sault Ste. Marie:

— Be fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to entering Canada with doses from Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson.

— Residents must be living in and traveling from the United States.

— Show a negative pre-arrival COVID-19 molecular test result taken no more than 72 hours before arriving in Canada. This would have to be a nasal swab test including PCR (Polymerase chain reaction), Nucleic acid test (NAT) or any of the following listed here. Antigen tests are not accepted.

— Residents have to be asymptomatic.

— Individuals must show proof of vaccination on arrival.

— All the information has to be uploaded to the border’s database ArriveCAN, via the website at or a downloaded app within 72 hours before arrival.

— Residents must be admissible under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, show United States identification by enhanced ID or passport.

— Individuals must take a COVID-19 test on arrival, if required. Failure to do so could result in a ticket.

Border officials say even though travelers are fully vaccinated, they must also provide a quarantine plan in ArriveCAN and be prepared to quarantine.

“At any time after entry, if a fully vaccinated traveler tests positive or is exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, they must follow all local public health requirements, including quarantine or isolation,” Canadian Border Service Agency officials said.

Only fully vaccinated U.S. citizens or permanent residents living in the U.S. are eligible to come to Canada for non-essential purposes. The border remains closed to Canadians attempting to leave for nonessential purposes.

U.S. travelers must submit mandatory information including digital proof using ArriveCAN starting after a new version of the software is released at midnight on Monday. Travelers using the app must ensure that they have the most up-to-date version available in the Google Play Store and the App Store for iPhone as of Monday as it will be needed before and after crossing the border.

If travelers can’t enter their information themselves, they can have a friend or family member enter the information for them, officials said.

It’s essential the residents arriving must show receipt of uploading to ArriveCAN on their phones, but also bring a paper copy proof of vaccination.

Starting Monday, the border testing surveillance program will be randomly requiring COVID-19 testing for some travelers to track new COVID-19 variants and not complying could result in a ticket.

“Fully vaccinated travelers will not need to take a post-arrival test unless they have been randomly selected to complete a Day 1 COVID-19 molecular test,” border officials said. “All travelers who are randomly selected for the border testing surveillance program must complete the mandatory testing requirements. Failure to do so may result in fines.”

Vaccinated parents traveling with unvaccinated children under 12 years of age will be exempt from quarantine.

But unvaccinated youth between 12-17 and dependent children 18 and older due to mental or physical health condition are permitted to enter but are subject to the 14-day quarantine mandate.

All unvaccinated children, except those under 5 years old, will be subject to Day 1 and Day 8 testing requirements. Certain provinces and territories in Canada may have more stringent rules about people who recently returned from travel.

Travelers to Canada may experience delays at the border due to the enhanced public health measures. The Canada Border Services Agency has said it “will not compromise the health and safety of Canadians for the sake of border wait times.”


(c) 2021 The Detroit News
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