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Robin St. Jules and her dad, Bob Leishman, were all set to fly back to Toronto from Orlando on May 8 — fully vaccinated and with a negative COVID test — when they were informed they didn’t have the right paperwork.

St. Jules said they were told at the airport the paperwork detailing their PCR test results could not be accepted because it didn’t have the name and address of the lab where the tests were processed.

They were denied boarding, she said, and have been grounded until May 22 — at an extra cost.

“The Air Canada agent said this is unacceptable,” St. Jules said, noting her 84-year-old dad was in wheelchair and her dog in a crate ready to go in cargo.

The tests, she said, were done by the Polk county health department, whose logo is included with their results. She explained to the agent that the tests were done at Polk county’s clinic in Auburndale, Fla. and sent off to a lab in Tampa.

The Polk county nurse who gave her the second dose of her Moderna vaccine had set her up for the COVID test, she explained.

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She also had her vaccination card but they “wouldn’t even look at them,” St. Jules said.

She said they went down to Florida from their home outside of Lindsay last November, way before any of the federal restrictions came into play.

“It seems like it’s arbitrary who they’re picking and choosing to turn away,” she said. “Or is it a big ‘screw you’ because we came down south.”

Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said the federal government sets out the requirements for an “acceptable COVID-19 test” for passengers seeking to return to Canada — and Air Canada is legally obligated to ensure these are adhered to.

“We face penalties, including significant fines, if we transport people whose documentation does not meet the government’s standards,” he said.

Fitzpatrick highlighted the requirement in yellow that the test result must include the “name and civic address of the lab/clinic/facility that administered the test.”

When I suggested that “administered” a test in my vernacular means that they gave the test (not processed it), he insisted that the policy was “applied correctly in accordance with the law” and the customers’ travel “unfortunately was delayed as a result.”

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Public health Canada would not comment on the specific case, saying only molecular tests performed by an “accredited laboratory” are allowed.

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“At this time, travelers should have their test performed at a reputable laboratory or testing facility (one that is accredited by the local government),” says spokesman Andre Gagnon.

I’m not sure why they wouldn’t consider the Polk County health department reputable.

But as I’ve seen personally, it is all arbitrary — seemingly dependent on with whom one has the fortune or misfortune to interact returning back to Canada.

As I noted in my Thursday column, when Denise and I crossed the border at Fort Erie on Tuesday afternoon, we were not even asked for our negative PCR tests — the ones taken on Sunday in South Carolina for nearly $300 U.S. at CVS pharmacy drivethru.

I had the paperwork all ready but the Canadian border security agent didn’t mention a word about them.

Asked about our situation, Gagnon again said they don’t comment on specific cases (even if it is me!) and “cannot speculate” on certain outcomes.

“Each traveller presents themselves to a border services officer under a different set of circumstances with varying levels of information available,” he said.

In other words, it is purely arbitrary.

SLevy@postmedia.com

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