Man pleads guilty to violating ban on travel to N.B., to be flown back to Ontario
Daniel Arefi's father said misunderstanding led officials to believe his son just wanted to visit
A 19-year-old man was flown back to Ontario after he pleaded guilty to violating New Brunswick's emergency measures order prohibiting visitors from entering the province.
Daniel Arefi pleaded guilty after he was ticketed and then arrested Thursday evening after landing at the Moncton airport.
Arefi appeared in provincial court Friday morning, where he entered the plea by phone from Codiac Regional RCMP holding cells.
Provincial court Judge Luc Labonté ordered him to be driven to Fredericton on Friday by provincial peace officers and placed on an afternoon flight back to Toronto. He was also fined the minimum $292.50 for violating the province's Emergency Measures Act.
Crown prosecutor Maurice Blanchard outlined the facts of the case after Arefi consulted with duty counsel Bernadette Richard.
It's time not to be selfish.- Provincial court Judge Luc Labonté
The prosecutor said Arefi was stopped by peace officers stationed at the Moncton airport to screen incoming passengers because of the pandemic.
He was questioned about why he was coming to New Brunswick and told them he was visiting the province.
Blachard said his travel was deemed non-essential, and he was ordered to self-isolate at a hotel and board the next flight back to Ontario on Sunday.
"Officers tried to convince him to comply for about four hours ... but he did not want to," Blanchard said. He was arrested at about 6:55 p.m. for violating the state of emergency.
Arefi declined to say anything when given the chance during the brief sentencing hearing.
"It's time not to be selfish," Labonté told Arefi. "It's time to be community-minded, and you're not."
Labonté warned that if Arefi returned to the province during the pandemic he'd likely send him to jail for 90 days.
"He decided to resolve his matter and we're just very happy that it worked out well as it did," Richard said in an interview outside court.
The man's father had offered a different version of why his son was coming to New Brunswick.
Arefi, who lost his job as a barber because of COVID-19, had been persuaded by his parents to move to the province, according to his father, who lives in Moncton.
Hossein Arefi said he had rented an apartment for his son to self-isolate in and hoped he would start a business after that.
But when Daniel arrived at the Moncton airport on Thursday, he was asked the purpose of his visit and answered that he was visiting his parents. There was no mention of a plan to move to the province during the court appearance nor in the facts of the case.
This was deemed an insufficient reason for entering New Brunswick, which, with some exceptions, is not letting anyone in who doesn't live in the province.
People who don't meet the provincial guidelines have to go back, at their own expense. Another passenger who was on Daniel's flight was also ordered back to Toronto.
But Hossein Arefi said his son's answer about the purpose of his visit was a misunderstanding, since Daniel plans to live in New Brunswick.
"He replied, 'I'm visiting my parents,'" the father told Information Morning Moncton on Friday.
"Because he used the word 'I'm visiting' they considered him as a visitor. And they said that it will be considered as an unnecessary traveller."
Hossein Arefi said he had documentation showing that an apartment had been rented so Daniel could self-isolate for 14 days, a requirement for anyone entering the province.
But the peace officers at the airport told Daniel to go to a hotel for three nights, at his own expense, and wait for the next available flight to Toronto, which is Sunday.
Daniel refused and was handcuffed and detained.
Arefi said it should have been clear his son was planning on moving to the province.
"He came with a one-way ticket and three bags filled with his stuff … to come and live in Moncton," the father said.
Richard, the lawyer who represented Arefi, said she had "no knowledge" of the father's assertion that Arefi was moving to Moncton.
Premier Blaine Higgs was asked about the case during a news conference Friday. He said he wasn't aware of all of the details, but called it "a most unfortunate situation."
He said the province isn't turning away people who are moving to New Brunswick, like students returning from university.
"I'll be interested to learn all the details," Higgs said. "Anyone knows we're restricting people coming in at the border. So it has to be very clear that you're coming here for a purpose. A visitation is not one of those purposes."
Mike Comeau, the deputy minister of public safety, said he could not go into specifics about the case because of privacy concerns.
He did say that people who are moving to New Brunswick from other provinces are being allowed in, but that people have also said different things once told they can't enter.
"I can tell you that when people are turned away, it does happen from time to time that they assert a different purpose," said Comeau.
"So sometimes people say that they're coming to visit somebody and then when they find out that that's not going to be permitted, the story changes and they say that they have some other purpose."
With files from Information Morning Moncton and Shane Magee