P.E.I. trucker hopes province will waive $1,000 fine for not self-isolating during pandemic

Philipp Reimus says he was surprised when he got a call Monday morning asking if he was complying with the province’s self-isolation rules, and even more surprised when he received a $1,000 fine.

'I can deliver food for the public, but I have to starve'

The Private Motor Truck Council of Canada has asked the P.E.I. government to waive a $1,000 fine handed to a trucker who didn't self-isolate, saying he left his apartment to get some food. (Isabella Zavarise/CBC)

A P.E.I. trucker hopes the province will waive a $1,000 fine he was issued for not self-isolating during the pandemic.

Philipp Reimus is from Germany but he has been living in Canada and working as a trucker for the past year. He moved to the Island in February and last weekend he moved into an apartment in Stratford. 

He says he was surprised when he got a call on May 4 asking if he was complying with the province's self-isolation rules. He said he was told an officer would be stopping by his apartment.

"He asked me what I am doing. I said I am a truck driver, I'm single, I live alone," he said.

The officer then asked him if he had been out of his apartment since he returned to the Island.

"Yes of course," Reimus said. "I have to buy some food for me, for me at home and when I am going back on the road, because I need food."

That is when Reimus was issued a fine for $1,000 for violating self-isolation rules. However, Reimus said he believes he had an essential reason to leave his home.

He said being fined for picking up some food doesn't make sense to him. "I can deliver food for the public, but I have to starve."

Philipp Reimus is from Germany but he has been living in Canada and working as a trucker for the past year. He was fined on May 4. (Philipp Reimus/Facebook)

Reimus said when he came over the Confederation Bridge May 1, he was handed information on self-isolation. He said he understands the rules and wants to follow them but he felt there was no other way to get food at the time.

Reimus said the officer told him he could call public health and provided him a number to ask about services like grocery delivery. Reimus said he was not issued a warning — just the fine.

"It's not fair," he said.

He said while on the road he is taking precautions to avoid contact with others.

"When I deliver to stores or customers I have to leave the paperwork in the back of the trailer, drive reverse to the door and when they are finished they put the paper work in the back from the trailer," he said. "I am much more safe than somebody who lives in the public and goes to the store."

Reimus contacted the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada — a national association that represents interests of truckers — to see if they could help him out.

Reimus says if the council isn't able to help him get the fine waived he doesn't plan to fight it in court — even though he said he doesn't feel he should have to pay up. (Philipp Reimus/Facebook)

Mike Millian, the council's president, wrote a letter to the P.E.I. government asking if the fine could be waived.

"I expressed our concern over the situation," Millian said. "I said that I thought the fine should be withdrawn and I asked for a clarification on public health officers and what they are doing for essential workers in the province of P.E.I."

Millian said he was able to talk with the province over the phone and was told while most provinces exempt truckers from the self-isolation rules because they are essential, P.E.I. is going a step further. 

"They are only exempting them when they are performing their work. So they will let them leave the province or their residence but only if they are going back to work," he said. "When they are not at work they do not want them visiting anything outside their workplace."

'A balancing act'

Millian said he still thinks leeway should have been given in this situation.

"It's a fine line and we have to play a balancing act in my view," he said. "We have a driver here who moved to Canada a year ago from Germany."

Millian said Reimus has no family in Canada and doesn't know a lot of people on P.E.I.

"In my view I would hope we would have some, I'll call it common sense or decency prevail, where we issue a warning, provide him with the information he needs," he said.

Millian was sent information sheets in an email from the province that are provided to those returning to P.E.I. but he thinks it is missing some key information.

"It does say on there you should not visit grocery stores," he said. "But me whose English is their first language, when I read through that two-page document, it didn't indicate anywhere in that document that if you disobey any of these orders you will be charged."

Finds information unclear

Millian said he found the document unclear on whether self-isolation was an absolute necessity.

"Most of the industry has been letting drivers know that they are exempt from these items. So it would be very easy for a driver to think he was exempt from doing this," he said.

Millian said that expecting Reimus to use a grocery delivery service is a bit unrealistic when he is only in the province for about three to four days with some delivery services backed up to 10 days for a delivery.

"I'll hopefully be able to discuss with them some possibility of giving some leeway here," he said. "What it has made Philipp feel is he has to choose between working and eating and I don't know that is a situation we want to put people in."

Will pay fine

Reimus said if the council isn't able to help him get the fine waived he doesn't plan to fight it in court — even though he said he doesn't feel he should have to pay up.

Remius said when he comes back to the province again he will call public health and hopefully avoid a fine and he plans to do his grocery shopping while in the U.S.

CBC reached out to both the department of transportation and the department of health but has not yet received a reply.

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