Robert Cormier may have paid US$78 for a replacement part for his natural gas fireplace, but the real cost is more painful — two weeks of quarantining at home.
Cormier and his wife Suzanne knew that as of Nov. 30, they wouldn’t have to pay for an expensive COVID-19 test just to duck across the Canada-U.S. border to pick up packages at private postal outlets in Pembina, N.D. But they didn’t realize it is mandatory to fill out the ArriveCAN app before they return to the Canadian side of the border.
"We thought all that was required was being double-vaccinated," said Cormier on Friday.
"My wife wasn’t working (Thursday), so we figured it was a good time to go. We picked up the package and returned to the border. We were only in America for less than a half hour.
"If I had known I would have done it properly, but we didn’t know. In the end, the only reason we have to quarantine is we didn’t fill out a form."
To make matters worse, Cormier said the border guard told the couple it’s a widespread problem.
"The border guy said we are getting hundreds of people like you every hour across the country," he said.
Last month, Canadian officials announced fully vaccinated travellers who are in the United States for less than 72 hours would no longer have to obtain an expensive molecular test for COVID-19, which cost $200 apiece.
The officials also told Canadians they would have to upload their proof of vaccination into the ArriveCAN app, but many people didn’t realize that was mandatory.
Cormier says while they are in isolation, he and his wife, who are both retired, have to test themselves for COVID-19 twice — the first on Friday and the second one on the eighth day of quarantine — while video-linked to a nurse who watches them take it.
They will also stay inside their Ste. Agathe home because the fines for violating the Federal Quarantine Act aren’t cheap.
The provincial fine for not wearing a mask in an indoor public place is $298, and the ticket for violating other public health orders is $1,296. Last week two Manitobans were each issued a ticket for $8,550 for violating quarantine.
No one from the Canada Border Services Agency responded to messages from the Free Press on Friday.
“If I had known I would have done it properly, but we didn’t know. In the end, the only reason we have to quarantine is we didn’t fill out a form.” — Robert Cormier
Lincoln Rau, who also slipped across the border on Dec. 1 to pick up electronics at one of Pembina’s postal outlets, said his quarantine order means he won’t be on holiday this Christmas.
"I had to take two weeks of vacation now so I can’t take the two weeks over Christmas. I have to work," said Rau. "This is ridiculous.
"I looked at all the news stories and never saw this — this is news to me. People in Winnipeg need to know about this before going down there. I’m sure this is catching tons of people coming back.
"If they’re going to enforce it, they need to do a better job of letting people know."
Marla Rubin said she finally went to a Pembina postal station to pick up the electric bike that’s been sitting there since she bought it at a California Costco and shipped it to North Dakota during a vacation in March 2020.
"I’m very annoyed," said Rubin, from her Winnipeg residence.
"I hadn’t even heard about the app… this is all about a form, not whether you have COVID or picked it up. They wouldn’t even look at our vaccination card."
“The border guy said we are getting hundreds of people like you every hour across the country." — Robert Cormier
Rubin said she was also upset that the COVID-19 test she received is past its expiry date and the guard at the border appeared to handle everybody’s passports and phones without changing gloves.
Bernard Harfield is now in quarantine after going to Pembina on Thursday to pick up parts for his vehicles, and failing to fill out the app in advance.
"As much as they say the individual has to take responsibility, so does the agency," said Harfield.
"They essentially are imposing a scientific penalty on an administrative error.
Harfield said the COVID-19 test he was given has also expired, but when he inquired he was told the testing company had decided they are valid for an extra year.
"I have to stay here for two weeks, but for what? I’m fully vaccinated and I have no COVID symptoms… it’s just not right.
"It’s a waste of time and a waste of resources."
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.