Canadian travellers fined $5,700 each for getting wrong COVID-19 test before returning from U.S.

VANCOUVER — It was a trip that cost a Vancouver nurse a lot more than she bargained for.

Brittany North, a registered nurse, says after a stressful year-and-a-half working during the pandemic, she needed a break.

“So I booked a trip to L.A. to visit a friend for about a week,” she said.

But just before she returned home, she tested positive for COVID-19, despite being double vaccinated and spending most of her time in California outdoors.

“I ended up getting quite sick for about a week to ten days…I had to quarantine for two weeks while I was there,” she said.

When she recovered, she paid for another COVID-19 test.

The result was negative.

North says her documentation was checked at the Los Angeles airport and she was given the okay to fly home.

“I thought I was following every rule I possibly could,” she said.

In a statement, Air Canada says that “passengers are responsible for ensuring they meet all entry requirements and have all valid travel documents including specific health certificates necessary to enter a country.”

“Air Canada provides detailed information on its website and lists the valid tests types for specific destinations,” it continues.

It’s only after she landed in Vancouver that she learned that the kind of COVID-19 test she had taken in the states wasn’t valid in Canada.

“They just told me that test was unacceptable. They would only accept a PCR test,” North said.

She was fined $5,700.

“I was sick to my stomach,” she said.

North told CTV News Vancouver that she took another test once back in Vancouver, and that it was also negative.

“I’m still extremely angry and frustrated.”

It turns out that North isn’t the only traveller who ended up taking the wrong test before entering Canada and was then slapped with a hefty fine.

Roger Iddison, 77, went with his wife Linda to visit their son in Portland, Oregon. The pair live in Missisauga, Ont., but flew through the Vancouver International Airport.

They hadn’t seen their son since 2019.

They thought their tests were in order, before coming home, having asked for a PCR test at a pharmacy in the United States.

“I asked Walgreens for a PCR test. And apparently…the test was wrong,” Iddison said.

When they landed in Vancouver, health officials told them it was the wrong test and they were fined a whopping $11,500.

“I was absolutely flabbergasted,” he told CTV by phone. “For two old folks living on pensions that’s insane.”

He doesn’t think he should have to pay for someone else’s mistake and says they certainly weren’t trying to circumvent the proper process.

“That’s the last thing we would ever want to do is spread COVID-19 in Canada and give it to my fellow Canadians. No way,” he said.

COVID-19 testing rules for travellers are available online but North and the Iddisons didn’t recognize that mistakes had been made until it was too late.

In a statement, Health Canada says it’s the traveller’s responsibility to know the rules but that “all persons issued a ticket for non-compliance have an opportunity to dispute their charges…”

Both North and the Iddisons are disputing their fines and believe officers should use discretion in deciding when a fine should be levied.

North also says she shouldn’t have been allowed on the flight if the test was incorrect.

She says her “vacation” ended up being “extremely stressful and expensive.”

She also wants to warn Canadians that even being double vaccinated doesn’t mean you can’t get sick from COVID-19. 

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