VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – What travels are important and what still looks murky for travelers and border agents more than a month after travel is restricted across the Canada-US border.
It happened after an American woman said she was not allowed to go to Canada to see her Canadian girlfriend in Burnaby last Friday, even though she was allowed to visit him in April.
“I consider him my partner and therefore important even though we do not have a joint legal status,” said Elizabeth DeBarbieri, who lives in Philadelphia. “This is an important trip for us and, you know, the fact that it is up to whatever agent you might meet that day and which one can let you and the other can’t … it’s annoying.”
DeBarbieri said he usually visits his partner every month and stays with him for several weeks. In early April, when the border was closed for insignificant travel, he said he could travel as usual to meet him, no problem.
“They took my documents, they looked at my passport, asked me if I was a citizen, did I have permanent residence status, I said ‘no, not for both … I will come with my important people,’ and [the border agent] the word is fine. He made me write down where I would be quarantined, “recalled DeBarbieri. “He agreed with me and I could connect to Vancouver without a problem.
So when he tried to visit again last Friday, he was surprised when he was refused after landing at YVR.
“They did not consider my trip important, you know, they would basically classify me as a tourist,” DeBarbieri said. “I don’t think that’s exactly true in our situation, I mean we, you know, we’re in partnership, we’re trying to start a family, we have to be in the same place for those things.”
When he told the border agent that he had been allowed to enter Canada a few weeks before, DeBarbieri said that he was told “everything changes every day.”
“I checked the official website before my trip to make sure there were no new restrictions or updates and there was … the only thing was that you were now required to wear a mask on your flight that I did, I put on a full mask,” DeBarbieri added.
While closing borders should go both ways, DeBarbieri said his girlfriend could go to the US after she was refused entry into Canada.
“It’s almost like Russian roulette. You don’t know when you come if you will even be allowed in, even if you follow all the rules,” he said. “It is really frustrating because it’s in the opinion of the border agent.”
DeBarbieri stressed that he understood why the closure of the border existed, adding that the pair took every precaution to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“This is really ridiculous. We really understand that there need to be steps in place because this is a terrible virus and we always follow the rules, you know, we are always very careful, we are alone, we are not around vulnerable people. “
Rules are not applied consistently
Evelyn Ackah, an immigration lawyer based in Calgary, said she saw the rules around border closure being applied irregularly.
“What we see in the Ackah Business Immigration Law is that rules regarding important workers are not consistently applied – because sometimes people are accepted at ports and sometimes people with exactly the same situation are refused entry into Canada,” he told NEWS. 1130.
“It is unfortunate and challenging to give advice to clients. When it comes to business or work in important industries, it’s easier to predict success versus personal family relationship situations. “
Mark Belanger, a lawyer at the Border Solutions Law Group in Vancouver, believes the border is not really closed, at least for Canadians who travel to America by air. He pointed to the actual agreement between Canada and the US, viz codified in a federal register. It said the border was closed for non-essential travel only at the port of entry and ferry terminal, which meant the border was not enforced at the airport.
“So, if you are a tourist and for whatever reason you want to go to the United States, you can pass the airport, you can fly to the US as a tourist if you are Canadian right now. You can, it’s legal. I have a client who does that, who really needs to go there for one reason or another. “he told NEWS 1130.
Belanger added, he heard from his colleagues that some people were denied entry into Canada or the US because border agents did not apply the policy properly, as in the DeBarbieri case.
“Here you see a perfect example of the officer’s wisdom creating results that are contrary to what was actually permitted before,” he added. “What we have here is inconsistency in adjudication and that is the reason why people like me remain busy, because of this inconsistency.”
Must show that the trip is important
The Canadian Border Services Agency said to enter Canada, foreign national spouses and / or close family members of Canadian citizens or permanent residents, must show that their travels were very important.
“If the trip is considered non-discretionary, they need to prove that they have suitable quarantine accommodation and plan to send basic needs to them for their 14-day mandatory quarantine as well as any traveler entering Canada. If the trip of a close family member / spouse is deemed unimportant, they will not be allowed into Canada, “a spokesman told NEWS 1130.
CBSA cannot say why DeBarbieri was allowed into Canada last month but was refused last week, citing privacy reasons.
The Canadian Government website includes important travel examples, but does not discuss specifics.
“If you are healthy and have to cross borders for work or other (important) purposes, you can continue to do so. Some examples of important travel destinations are: work and study, critical infrastructure support, economic services and supply chains, shopping for important items, and health, immediate medical care, safety and security. “
DeBarbieri said he and his colleague were currently in Seattle, working to bring the two of them to Canada, together.
“It’s basically just spent our lives over the past week.”
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