What’s Going on with Quarantine Act Tickets?
You may be one of the unlucky few who, whether you were tired, frustrated, broke or confused, ended up with a ticket for failure to comply, fining you $5,000 plus surcharges under section 58 of the Quarantine Act. That’s not fun and you might be asking yourself, what is this ticket and how do I fight it?
When the pandemic was declared in March of 2020 many were clamoring to completely shut down our borders immediately. Many border restrictions were implemented by the government as a proposed response to limit the spread of COVID-19. This included mandatory quarantine for travellers.
The rules for mandatory quarantine were established utilizing the Quarantine Act’s emergency powers. This allows the “Governor in Council”, which is the Governor General acting on the advice of the Federal Cabinet, to create enforceable orders. The emergency nature of the order allows the government to set rules without seeking parliamentary assent of a bill.
At first travellers were required to quarantine for 14 days when they arrive and provide a negative PCR test to board a flight to Canada. However, it wasn’t until early 2021, after the two deadliest waves of COVID-19 had hit, that the government implemented even stronger border restrictions.
The rules escalated to their most dramatic peak on February 22, 2021, when ‘quarantine hotels’ were ordered. Every person entering the country had to receive another PCR test upon arrival and pay to book a stay at a ‘quarantine hotel’ until their results came back negative. Where the test was negative, travellers would be required to quarantine in their home until the 14 days since their arrival had elapsed. If a traveller tested positive, the traveller would be required to remain at the hotel for the fourteen-day period.
This requirement regarding stay at a ‘quarantine hotel’ faced plenty of backlash. There were reported incidents such as that concerning two women reportedly being sexually assaulted while staying at one of these hotels.
There were also applications made to the Federal Court in cases such as Spencer v. Canada (Health), 2021 FC 621 (CanLII) challenging measures imposed upon returning international air travelers. While this Federal Court application found that s. 10(b) of the Charter (the right on arrest or detention to retain and instruct counsel without delay and to be informed of that right), was violated in one instance, it found that no other rights—the right to enter, remain in and leave Canada; the right not to be unreasonably detained; the right not to be searched or seized—were being infringed by virtue of the measures imposed upon returning international air travelers.
Many applicants challenged the imposition of the travel restrictions and several other federal COVID-19 policies at the Federal Court. Notable among them was former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Brian Peckford, the sole surviving signatory of the Charter. In that case involving Peckford, included in the court’s reasoning for their decision to have the application struck was that since travel mandate had already been lifted, it would be moot to decide on their constitutionality. The applicants in that case filed an appeal on November 18, 2022. We await the outcome which if successful may have some implications for future cases involving ‘quarantine tickets.’
In Ontario, the Contraventions Act was adopted enabling fines to be levied as an enforcement measure of Quarantine Act. Justices of the peace now make decisions in Provincial Offences Court regarding tickets issued under the Quarantine Act. Not all provinces adopted the legal framework required for provincial enforcement.
You probably wish you flew into Alberta where they don’t have the legal framework for this but perhaps there is a possible solution for you in your current predicament.
For a long time, there were no trials for Quarantine Act violations and there were rumours that prosecutors were merely dropping them. We know this is not true now, as we finally have at least one reported decision. In Mississauga (City) v. Hung, 2022 ONCJ 429 (CanLII), the defendant argued they made a mistake of fact, thinking they were protected under the Charter from having to stay at a quarantine hotel. In fact, this would be a mistake of law which is not a defense, and she was found guilty. However, the Justice of the Peace still decided to look at the constitutionality of the restrictions and found there was no engagement with the Charter.
Provincial Offenses Court
In the Provincial Offences Court, you need to make a motion to argue constitutional questions, and the defendant in Mississauga (City) v. Hung, 2022, failed to do so. Decision makers such as judges and justices of the peace are expected to decide whether the evidence shows a Charter section was engaged—meaning that on the face of it, someone was denied the right provided in the Charter in any case. They are to decide if that breach was justified.
How to Fight the Ticket
If you have a ticket you are fighting, it is likely you are near the 18-month period for delay because these trials have taken a long time to be scheduled. There still remain constitutional questions that have not been answered. If you want to fight your ticket or want an experienced and knowledgeable representative to help you possibly reduce the amount in fines that you are required to pay, give our office a call.
Click the link below to get started with your complimentary consultation.
About the Author
Licensed Paralegal and Notary Public
AJ Murray Legal Services P.C.