A controversial pastor in southeastern Manitoba says he has been hit with more than $17,000 in fines for allegedly violating Canada’s mandatory COVID-19 travel quarantine.
Tobias Tissen, a pastor at the Church of God (Restoration) in the Rural Municipality of Hanover, was required to self-isolate for at least 14 days after he travelled to Mexico and returned last month.
A video shared on Facebook by the anti-mask, anti-restriction protester showed the RCMP giving him two tickets for allegedly breaching the Quarantine Act — once on Christmas Eve and again Christmas Day.
Tissen, who is out on bail after he was accused of violating Manitoba’s public health orders last year, has vowed to fight the latest fines in court.
Posted Jan. 13, the two-minute, 16-second video showed an unmasked Tissen, in the driver’s seat of a vehicle, speaking to two masked RCMP officers in front of the police detachment in Steinbach.
Tissen, 27, declined to enter the building before a female officer explained the breaches to him. As she outlined the alleged Christmas Day offence, he replied: "Sorry, I do not understand this."
"You didn’t quarantine then when you came in," the officer told him.
After the second ticket was read to him, Tissen asked: "It doesn’t matter if what I did was essential to me?"
"You can talk about that in court," the officer responded.
"Does this all make sense to you?" Tissen asked her moments later.
"We’re doing our jobs, and if you have questions, there’s information on the back," the officer replied.
The provincial government did not confirm Tissen was fined under the Quarantine Act when it was asked to comment. The RCMP deferred comment to the province.
Tissen and his lawyer, Alex Steigerwald, did not respond to requests for comment. Tissen did, however, defend himself in the Facebook post.
"I was fined more then ($17,000) for doing what is essential to a pastor and that is attend church to preach, and be there for the people. Sadly, the principalities, powers and rulers of the darkness of this world do not acknowledge that this is essential to a pastor and can’t be touched by their mandate," he wrote in a caption.
"All of them will see one day how badly mistaken they were and will regret not having taken a stand for what’s right and what conscience demands. Needless to say is that we will challenge these ridiculous fines and demand answers in court."
Unvaccinated travellers who do not have COVID-19 symptoms are required to quarantine for at least 14 days upon their arrival in Canada.
The quarantine period ends after the 14th day if they do not have symptoms and have not had a positive test result.
Tissen was photographed wearing a face mask inside Winnipeg Richardson International Airport before he boarded a flight to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on Dec. 11.
His bail conditions did not prohibit him from travelling.
He returned to Winnipeg eight days later. Unvaccinated travellers arriving in Canada that day would have been required to quarantine until at least Jan. 3.
A live stream posted on the church’s Facebook page on Christmas Eve showed Tissen at a carol singing service. He was also seen in a live stream of a Sunday service posted Dec. 26.
To board a plane in Canada, federal rules require passengers aged 12 and over to show proof they are fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus. There are some exemptions, however.
After his Mexico trip, Tissen told the Steinbach Carillon he was granted a religious exemption. Federal rules allow airlines to grant exemptions for sincere religious beliefs.
To obtain a religious exemption, travellers must submit a request three weeks before their flight, and they are required to show a negative COVID test before boarding.
Tissen told the Carillon he and other members of his church, located just south of Steinbach, flew to Mexico to attend a pastors conference.
Tissen was arrested on a warrant in Steinbach on Oct. 18 for allegedly violating provincial public health orders May 15, 2021, when an anti-mask rally was held in Winnipeg. He is due to appear in court Feb. 10.
The Church of God (Restoration) has also been fined for holding services that violated rules on public gatherings.