Despite the tickets issued, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) said that since it introduced its new measures, the vast majority of Americans driving to or from Alaska have complied with the regulation.
To help stop the spread of COVID-19, the Canada-U.S. Land border closed to non-essential travel at the end of March. However, Americans can still drive across Canada to Alaska, or vice versa, for non-discretionary reasons, such as work or school, or to return home.
As a precaution, drivers should take the most direct route possible and not make unnecessary stops.
Once summer hit, it became clear that some Americans were ignoring these rules after several have been caught take long hikes in Banff National Park.
In an attempt to curb the problem, the CBSA introduces new strict measures July 31. Now, when Americans traveling the Alaska Highway enter Canada, they are given a written list of the rules and the date by which they must check in with a CBSA officer and leave the country.
The list of rules – which drivers must hang on their rearview mirrors – include instructions for wearing a face mask, avoiding contact with others, and ordering meals while driving.
Each of these rules was broken on August 31, according to the BC RCMP, when a group of three Americans pulled up in Fort St. John, BC, on their way from Washington state. in Alaska.
The trio reportedly walked into a restaurant without wearing a mask, dined inside and interacted closely with two Canadian customers inside and outside the restaurant, BC RCMP’s Shoihet said.
“There have been a number of violations. ”
She said the RCMP were informed by a restaurant employee “who was concerned for the well-being of customers and employees”.
The RCMP fined the three Americans $ 1,000 each under the Federal Quarantine Act.
Defy a deadline
Although American drivers now have a deadline to leave Canada, that hasn’t stopped an American family from extending their welcome.
According to Shoihet, the CBSA contacted the BC RCMP on August 29 when a family of five driving from Alaska to Washington State failed to register at the border in Washington. British Columbia on their release date.
The RCMP circulated the license plate number of the family’s vehicle to judicial authorities.
“The watchful eye of a Vancouver police officer was able to spot this license plate and then alerted us,” Shoihet said.
The three adult family members were fined $ 500 each under the Quarantine Act, and the RCMP escorted the family to the B.C.-Washington border, he said. she declared.
“They were given an appropriate time to get from one border to the other and they did not comply. ”
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CBC News has uncovered a third incident in which an American woman driving from Alaska to Montana was fined $ 1,200 for stopping in Banff National Park on August 6. According to the Alberta RCMP, the woman entered Canada about two weeks before – before the CBSA introduced its new measures.
RCMP said the drive to Montana should have only taken a few days and not included a pit stop in the park.
Get rid of the Alaska exemption?
The Alaska exemption has aroused concern from some Canadians who fear that a number of Americans are using it as a loophole to spend their vacations here.
“You shouldn’t stop on the way to enjoy the sights and sounds of British Columbia,” warned BC Premier John Horgan. at a press conference in July.
Some Canadians even question why the exemption is allowed, given that the United States has the highest cumulative number of COVID-19 cases.
Jim Abram, a municipal politician from Quadra Island, off the coast of British Columbia, has never been a supporter of the Alaska exemption. He said Americans continuing to break the rules – despite the CBSA’s new measures – only strengthens his resolve to have it removed.
“You just have to cancel it,” said Abram, who is the elected regional director of Discovery Islands-Mainland Inlets in British Columbia.
“The situation in the United States is absolutely appalling and we have worked so hard in BC to try to keep things manageable.
Abram said Americans to Alaska have other options, such as flying or taking the Alaska State Ferry, which departs from Bellingham, Wash., And carries vehicles. .
Americans are allowed to cross Canada to or from Alaska for non-discretionary purposes due to their “limited options” for travel, CBSA spokeswoman Ashely Lemire said in an email. addressed to CBC News.
Since the agency introduced tougher measures on July 31, more than 99% of Americans who made the trip have complied with the requirement to leave Canada on the scheduled exit date, she said. .
When asked if the CBSA was reconsidering Alaska’s exemption, Lemire replied that the agency regularly reviews its policies and makes necessary adjustments.
“The CBSA will always take appropriate measures to ensure the health and safety of people residing in Canada,” she said.