Expired PCR test charges dropped: R v. Anonymous Family

The Justice Centre is pleased to announce that all charges laid against a mom, her 4 children and the children’s 79-year-old grandmother for entering Canada with an expired PCR test have been dropped by the Crown. 

On February 15, 2021, a mother travelling with her four children, aged 9, 12, 14, and 16, and the children’s grandmother were fined a total of $18,000, the maximum allowable fine, and forced to go into a Canadian quarantine facility, after arriving at a land border with PCR tests that had expired by two hours. 

The mother, represented by the Justice Centre, who wishes to remain anonymous due to fears of backlash from her employer, travelled with her children and the grandmother to Wisconsin, for a critical medical appointment to address the grandmother’s end-stage renal disease. The mother’s sister, who lives in Wisconsin, arranged the appointment with an American doctor with the medical expertise to provide treatment for this condition. 

The mother is a front-line medical worker and has been involved in patient care throughout the pandemic. She carefully followed the protocols set out by the health authorities. Even before PCR tests became mandatory, she, her children and her mother all obtained PCR tests before traveling. 

While the mother and her family were in the USA, new mandates were implemented, requiring returning land travellers to have a negative PCR test. 

Most testing sites the mother contacted had a turnaround time of two to five days. She and her family eventually attended at the Wisconsin Government National Guard facility on Friday, February 12, 2021, to be tested. They were tested at 1:47 pm and the site closed at 2 pm. 

Five out of six test results came back on Sunday, February 14 at noon and the remaining result did not arrive until1:30 am on Monday, February 15. 

While the family could have travelled home on Sunday before the new rules of obtaining a PCR test within 72 hours of returning to Canada were implemented, they decided to wait for the last test result and ensure it was negative, before travelling on Monday, February 15, 2021. 

The family did not have a smooth return home to Canada. Early Monday morning, almost halfway home, three warning lights came on in their vehicle. The mother, pulled over, referred to the vehicle manual, did what was suggested in the manual, which was to reduce her speed. Ultimately, the family arrived at the border 74 hours and 15 minutes after having the PCR test, two hours after the PCR test expired under the new government orders. 

Once at the border the mother was informed that the test results had expired, her passport was taken away and she was asked to pull over. After an approximate one hour wait without anyone providing her with any information, she was advised to pull into the garage at the border, where she met two quarantine officers. The quarantine officers once again explained that the tests had expired and that there was zero tolerance for non-compliance. 

While the mother made every attempt to explain her circumstances, she was advised that her circumstances were not relevant. The quarantine officers refused to allow the family to return to the nearest US point, Grand Forks, North Dakota, to get re-tested. After three hours of waiting with hungry, cranky children, the family was issued tickets totaling the outrageous sum of $18,000.00. 

Quarantine officers told the family they must immediately drive to a quarantine facility in Winnipeg, or face additional fines of $3000.00 and the “RCMP would be sent.” 

The mother, her children and their ill grandmother were confined at this facility for three  days before they were released and allowed to go home. While in quarantine, the grandmother’s dietary restrictions were not accommodated, despite her serious health issues. 

“This family tried in every way to comply with unreasonable requirements and were still fined and quarantined, despite having negative PCR tests. They are pleased the charges have been dropped, but, to this date, the government has not provided any empirical data or a reasonable explanation for why people with negative Covid tests cannot quarantine at their own homes,” states Sayeh Hassan, Justice Centre Staff Lawyer. 

“Clearly, individual circumstances must be looked at. A Canadian accused of murder has the Charter right not be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned; the right to retain and instruct counsel without delay; the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; and the right to a fair trial before an independent and impartial court. Police can forcibly confine a Canadian only after arresting that citizen, and police can only arrest someone after charging them with having committed a crime,” points out Ms. Hassan. 

“This family had none of these rights respected in this situation.”