ArriveCAN Tickets Dropped after a Letter from Justice Centre Lawyer

In June 2022, Lindsay McDonald and Meridee Hlokoff were travelling together by car and tried to cross the border at Aldergrove, B.C. At the border, the Canada Service Border Agency (“CBSA”) agent with whom they initially met directed them to go to the CBSA office, as they had not completed the ArriveCAN form via the cell phone app. They understood they were going to the CBSA office to complete the form.  Once inside the CBSA office, Ms. McDonald and Ms. Hlokoff were bombarded by other officials, and a Public Health Officer. They were not given the opportunity to complete the ArriveCAN form, as they had expected. They ended up dealing with the declaration required for the minor items they had purchased in the US, and also with the Public Health Officer. At one point, the Public Health Officer stated that they were also supposed to have undergone a test for Covid-19 before attempting to cross the border. They advised the Public Health Officer that they were willing to take the test then, at that time. However, the Public Health Officer brushed this offer aside and proceeded to issue the fine. They each received a fine in the amount of $5,750.00. Throughout the process described above, Ms. McDonald and Ms. Hlokoff felt intimidated, afraid, and overwhelmed.Until use of the ArriveCAN app was made optional for travellers on October 1, 2022, the enforcement of ArriveCAN was discretionary for the Canada Service Border Agency (“CBSA”) agents. Starting in May 2022, CBSA gave its agents the discretion to simply wave through travellers who expressed confusion, or even hostility, at ArriveCAN requirements. The CBSA agent could thus apply the law as he or she saw fit, at his or her own discretion.The B.C. Provincial Court website states that “[t]he Rule of Law means that the same laws apply to everyone regardless of their occupation, level of wealth, race, colour, sexual orientation, gender, or other personal characteristics. It means that all people are treated equally by the same standards.” The Rule of Law was clearly not being applied to citizens re-entering Canada.  Charlene Le Beau, the lawyer representing Ms. McDonald and Ms. Hlokoff, wrote a letter to Crown counsel, suggesting that it is not in the public interest to prosecute her clients for the ArriveCAN infraction. She pointed out the inconsistent application of the law by CBSA agents. She advised that her clients were confused about what was required of them in crossing the border. She argued that it is not in the public interest to prosecute a person when the authority in question can, at his or her own discretion, cause a significant negative outcome for a person, as in this case, which led to a ticket and fine in the amount of $5,750.00 for both Ms. McDonald and Ms. Hlokoff.“My clients are relieved and pleased that the Crown entered a stay of proceedings on their tickets. By entering a stay, the Rule of Law is respected and honoured. We must be ever vigilant to ensure that the Rule of Law is upheld, if we are to remain a free and democratic society,” says Ms. Le Beau.“It is the right of every citizen of Canada to enter, remain in, and leave Canada. This right is enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It must not be fettered or encumbered by the whims of government to make up new rules that impose restrictions on entry,” Ms. Le Beau concludes.

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