Retirees Michelle and Rich Hamilton (not their real names) have endured what they call “abuse and harassment” since returning to Canada via the Thousand Islands crossing last week.
Reached while in quarantine in her Ottawa home, Michelle said her problems started when they turned up the border after two days on the road and her negative PCR COVID test — taken in Bradenton, Fla. — hadn’t been posted online (her husband’s test results had been posted).
She said a Canada Border Services agent “seized” her passport and a Health Canada nurse came out in full PPE and ordered them to remain in the car.
The nurse indicated she wouldn’t fine Michelle $3,000 if she turned around and went to Watertown, N.Y., for a retest — meaning they’d have to stay overnight, she said.
When Michelle noted she was fully vaccinated with Moderna and showed her the receipt for the PCR test, the Health Canada nurse apparently said the federal government “doesn’t care about vaccines” and her other option was to be taken into “federal custody” at a quarantine centre for 14 days.
She claimed the nurse reprimanded her and her husband for leaving Canada — even though the snowbirds flew down to Florida before the government beefed up restrictions for travellers — saying “this is the price you pay for doing that.”
Although Michelle said she was finally able to access her test — there had been a glitch posting it — and go home, six days later, she was in tears for what she characterized as abusive treatment.
“I never would have expected this from my own country,” she said. “We treat prisoners better.”
She said since she’s returned home, she’s received a phone call from a federal government agent, who grilled her about everything including what she will do when she runs out of food.
On Wednesday, a quarantine inspector turned up at her home and when he didn’t see her husband — who was showering — banged on the front window, she said.
The couple have filed a complaint about their treatment with the legal advocacy group, The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF).
A media spokesperson with Health Canada said the Canadian government continues to take “unprecedented action” to protect the health and safety of Canadians with measures that prevent “further transmission” of COVID-19 and virus variants.
The spokesperson said all travellers arriving to Canada by air or land must complete a test on the day of arrival and on the 10th day of the mandatory quarantine period.
Travellers must also present a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival at the border.
“The testing requirements for international travellers, in combination with other measures, including a 14-day quarantine, are necessary to protect people in Canada,” the spokesperson said. “COVID-19 variants have been detected in every province, and we must be vigilant in preventing new travel-related cases.”