Nova Scotia

N.S. resort backs down from policy restricting guests to Atlantic Canadians

White Point Beach Resort was turning people away if they're from outside the Atlantic region, but the resort says it will change its policy starting Wednesday.

White Point Beach Resort implemented policy last summer, but plans to change it Wednesday

This image shows the exterior of White Point Beach Resort. The resort implemented a policy last summer that only welcomes guests who live in Atlantic Canada. (CBC)

Fully vaccinated Canadians are allowed to come to Nova Scotia without any self-isolation requirements, but at least one South Shore resort wasn't ready to welcome them with open arms.

White Point Beach Resort implemented a policy in July 2020 that only allowed guests who reside in Atlantic Canada. The resort has turned travellers away based on that policy.

But on Monday morning, after this story was originally published, the resort informed prospective guests it will begin welcoming Canadians from outside the Atlantic region beginning Wednesday.

Ontario resident Kelsey McLaren and her four-year old daughter were turned away from the resort on June 18 after driving two hours from Halifax — where they've been living for several months — to check in.

"I disagree with the policy," said McLaren. "I think it's entirely arbitrary, and it's not following provincial guidelines or the medical advice the province is following."

McLaren, who has lived in Toronto since 2014, is originally from Nova Scotia and returned to her home province in April and completed the mandatory 14-day self-isolation period. Her driver's licence and health card are from Ontario, where she plans to return in the fall.

Their reservation at White Point was made by one of McLaren's friends, who is a Nova Scotia resident. The friend checked in with no issue.

But when McLaren and her daughter arrived and showed an Ontario ID, they were told to leave.

'I don't really get it'

The policy is listed on the resort's website and states government-issued photo ID is required upon check-in as proof of residency. McLaren said it didn't occur to her to check the website beforehand because she's been visiting businesses in the province for several months with no issue.

She spoke with Dylan Meisner, the manager of the resort, and offered to show proof that she had been in the province since April, that she had completed the mandatory quarantine requirements and that she gets regular rapid tests for COVID-19.

Kelsey McLaren, seen with her sleeping daughter in the backseat of their car, had a booking at White Point but was ultimately told she couldn't stay there. (Submitted by Kelsey McLaren)

Despite her efforts, she was told there was no wiggle room on the policy. Disappointed, she and her daughter got back in the car and drove back to Halifax. Her friend was refunded for the portion of the reservation McLaren was unable to use.

"I get what you're trying to do, we all want people to be safe. No one wants to give or get COVID, right?" McLaren said.

"But there's nothing about this policy that's actually doing that. You're just preventing people from staying at White Point for some reason. I don't really get it."

Meisner did not respond to interview requests from CBC News.

'Surprised and confused'

Rick Wilson and his wife, Sandra, were planning to make the drive from Ottawa in late July for a two-week timeshare stay at White Point. They booked it last fall in the hopes that the possibility of travel would be back on the table by summer.

Nova Scotia opened its borders to the rest of Canada on June 30, so the fully vaccinated pair sent an email to the resort asking to confirm their check-in date of July 30.

Wilson said he was "surprised and confused" to learn the resort would not confirm his booking, and in a series of emails with Meisner, he was told the policy would be in place indefinitely. Meisner also told Wilson he would no longer respond to any more questions about the issue.

Rick Wilson, right, and his wife, Sandra, are from Ottawa. They're both fully vaccinated but were unable to confirm their check-in date at White Point Beach Resort for July 30. (Submitted by Sandra Wilson)

"I did not expect an individual resort to have a policy different from a provincial government," Wilson said.

Adding to Wilson's confusion was a July 5 email in which Meisner said the resort was hopeful the province would lift restrictions on individuals with two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

There are currently no travel restrictions in place for Canadians from outside the Atlantic region who are fully vaccinated.

'Unfair,' but not discrimination

While the policy may seem "unfair," Dalhousie University law professor Wayne MacKay said regional residence isn't a recognized ground for discrimination under the Human Rights Act.

Any business operator or service provider can, within reason, set their own rules of operation as long as they don't violate the law, such as the act.

"In spite of the fact that the surface looks to be fairly unfair, it may well be at the end of the day that it's something that the provider of services may well be able to do," MacKay said.

Gary Andrea, a spokesperson for the Department of Inclusive Economic Growth, said private operators are responsible for making their own business decisions, but the province encourages operators to welcome travellers from across Canada.

"We are comfortable as a government that with our vaccination rollout and public health measures we are taking the right steps to keep Nova Scotians safe as we open up to the rest of the country," he said in an email.

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