Calgary

Alberta can't ticket travellers refusing to quarantine because it hasn't adopted federal act

In recent days, the Alberta government has been talking tough about COVID restrictions enforcement. Yet more than 14 months into the pandemic, Alberta is still in discussions with the federal government over the adoption of an act that would allow the province to more easily go after quarantine rule-breakers. 

In Ontario and B.C., more than 500 passengers fined in less than 3 months

Alberta has not adopted the federal Contraventions Act, which allows police to issue tickets and fines instead of launching a criminal investigation when international travellers who land in the province refuse to quarantine at a designated hotel. (Audrey Neveu/Radio-Canada)

In recent days, the Alberta government has been talking tough about COVID restrictions enforcement. Yet more than 14 months into the pandemic, Alberta is still in discussions with the federal government over the adoption of an act that would allow the province to more easily go after quarantine rule-breakers.

Alberta and Saskatchewan are the only provinces that haven't signed on to the Contraventions Act, which gives police additional powers to enforce the Quarantine Act and makes "police enforcement immediate and relatively easy," according to the Calgary Police Service.

Offences under the Quarantine Act can be dealt with in other provinces through the simple process of issuing tickets. The province won't say why it hasn't adopted the act or if there are any intentions of doing so.

Last week, in an effort to curb soaring COVID case numbers in the province, the Alberta government introduced new measures to try to stop people from breaking public health orders — including doubling fines to $2,000 and introducing a new enforcement protocol to target people not complying with orders.

No fines issued in Calgary

Calgary is one of four cities — along with Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal — accepting international flights, yet there is no record of any hotel quarantine violations in Alberta.

In a two-month period, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) says more than 500 tickets were issued in Toronto and Vancouver since the federal government's requirements went into effect on Feb. 22.

Fines are $3,000.

Yet Calgary police say they have not issued any fines in connection with international travellers' refusal to participate in government-mandated hotel quarantines. 

In a story published last week, CBC News spoke with several travellers who said they never quarantined at a hotel after landing in Calgary after international travel and never received a fine. 

In Quebec, even though that province adopted the Contraventions Act in 2000, fines are issued by provincial prosecutors. The province's director of criminal and penal prosecutions told CBC News last week that it hasn't issued any fines related to the hotel quarantine requirement. 

Criminal charges complicate process

According to the federal justice department, all the provinces except Saskatchewan and Alberta adopted the Contraventions Act ticketing regime between 1996 and 2017. 

"Federal and provincial officials have had ongoing discussions about entering into an agreement to implement the provisions of the Contraventions Act in Alberta," said a spokesperson for the justice ministry in a written statement.

The justice department's wording was similar to the province's with a spokesperson writing that discussions between the feds and Alberta regarding the act are "ongoing."

Although tickets can't be issued for Quarantine Act breaches, Criminal Code charges can still be laid. 

But police say this complicates the process.

In other provinces, the Contraventions Act allows police to gather evidence against a COVID rule-breaker on the spot.

Essentially, says CPS spokesperson Emma Poole, a person breaking the law in Alberta must be caught in the act.

"Undoubtedly, some may not follow through with their quarantine, but we would require a complaint through PHAC to that effect," said Poole.

"In Alberta, we are left to receive a complaint sometimes days or longer after the fact, and we must investigate and then apply to the courts for a summons."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary crime reporter

Meghan Grant is the courts and crime reporter for CBC Calgary. If you have a good story idea or tip, you can reach her at meghan.grant@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @CBCMeg.

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