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RCMP fined 7 Americans last week for stopping to sightsee in Banff National Park

Alberta RCMP issued seven tickets to Americans who stopped in Banff National Park to see the sights last week despite rules observed by the Canada Border Services Agency.

Americans may come through Canada to get home to Alaska but they must travel along a direct path

Licence plates from U.S. states like Nevada and Colorado were spotted near Banff National Park over the past week. RCMP have issued seven tickets to U.S. residents over the past week. There are legitimate reasons for the presence of a U.S. resident or a U.S.-plated vehicle in Canada amidst the pandemic, but stopping to see sights is not one of them. (Submitted/Helen Pike/CBC)

Alberta RCMP issued seven tickets to Americans who stopped in Banff National Park to see the sights last week despite rules observed by the Canada Border Services Agency.

"If individuals have been allowed to enter Canada for an essential purpose, they have to abide by the requirements provided to them by the CBSA," said RCMP Cpl. Deanna Fontaine.

Non-essential travel between Canada and the United States is currently prohibited. The closure is currently scheduled to end July 21, though that date could be extended.

Under current rules, Americans may come through Canada to get home or get to work in Alaska, but they must travel along a direct path. When they need to stop for food or rest stops, they must maintain distance away from the public as much as possible.

Seven tickets

Fontaine said at least six of the seven tickets issued last week were related to Americans who had stopped for long periods of time to go hiking in Banff National Park.

Each of the tickets was issued under the Alberta Health Act at a rate of $1,200 each.

RCMP have received other complaints from residents after seeing U.S. plates in the area, Fontaine said, but noted that it is up to the discretion of each individual officer to determine whether a stop in Canada is appropriate along their route of transit.

There are also legitimate reasons for the presence of a U.S. resident or a U.S.-plated vehicle in Canada amidst the pandemic, Fontaine said.

"In the park, we do have U.S. citizens who have been there since before the pandemic started," Fontaine said. "And that's not an issue. People have a right to live in peace."

CBSA rules

According to a CBSA representative, travellers seeking to transit through Canada to Alaska will be required to substantiate their purpose for travel. Should their trip be deemed unnecessary, or purely discretionary, they will be denied entry.

"Should an officer have any doubts with regards to the traveller's intended purpose, the traveller will be required to prove/substantiate their purpose of travel," said Louis-Carl Brissette Lesage, a spokesperson with the CBSA, in an email to CBC News.

Brissette Lesage said providing false information to officers upon entry is considered misrepresentation and has consequences, including possibly being denied entry or being banned from returning to Canada. 

Failure to comply with restrictions could lead to up to $750,000 in fines and imprisonment of up to six months, Brissette Lesage said.

Asked about the reports of tourists showing up in Banff National Park on June 12, Transport Minister Marc Garneau said a number of measures are in place and officials will continue to spot check.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau responds to a question in the House of Commons in Ottawa in this 2016 file photo. Garneau said officials would continue to spot check those travelling through Canada to reach Alaska. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

"There will be cases where people do not do it and we believe that that's an irresponsible thing to do. We're largely satisfied that most people follow the requirements that are put in place," he said. 

"We cannot guarantee 100 per cent that everybody is going to do it and we are to some extent assuming good faith on the part of people at this point in time."

Fontaine said the priority of RCMP was to educate travellers and ensure that those who need to quarantine are aware of the requirements.

"I'm not confident in saying that this is a trend," Fontaine said. "This is not something that is being dealt with proactively, it's something that's being dealt with reactively."

With files from Helen Pike and Sophia Harris

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