Grant and Barbara Howse, in quarantine in Invermere. Mike Turner photo

Denied entry into U.S., Canadian couple still forced to quarantine for 2 weeks

The rules around crossing the U.S. border led to a bizarre situation for an Invermere couple

The rules around crossing the U.S. border during the pandemic led to a bizarre situation for an Invermere couple earlier this month, leaving them angry and frustrated as they were forced to go into quarantine without having technically entered the U.S. — indeed, without having even left their vehicle.

Grant and Barbara Howse were on their way to Baja, Mexico, where they have residency and property. There are rules in place to allow for this; in fact, Barbara’s son and daughter-in-law crossed the border earlier — at the Roosville border crossing.

“Originally, we were planning on flying,” Grant Howse said. “But every flight that we booked with WestJet was cancelled, or pushed to a different date. Finally, we decided to drive.

“We got to the border, waited for the command to come in to the port of entry. We explained we were on our way to Mexico, and we were residents of the country. We’re Canadian citizens, but we also have resident status in the Baja.

“But then we were told that we couldn’t go to Mexico unless we were Mexican citizens.

“We were pulling our trailer, and we loaded up to cross the States, because [Barbara’s son and daughter-in-law, who also have Mexican residency] had gone through.”

The son and daughter-in-law had been advised that they couldn’t stop except for essentials — gasoline, food — until they were over the southern border into Mexico, but otherwise they had been waved through.

The Howses explained that they had all their provisions, sanitary gear and masks, and were aware and prepared to follow all safety protocols while crossing the U.S. But even after the U.S. border checked with his supervisor, the Howes’ were still denied entry, offered no further reasons, and told to turn around. But that’s when their troubles really started.

“We were a little stunned,” Howse said.

The couple were told to drive ahead a few metres to a turn-around spot and go back to Canada, and that the U.S. border guards would call their Canadian counterparts and tell them the Howses were coming, having been refused entry.

“We turned around and came back to the Canadian side, and the fellow waved us up to the wicket. And that’s where it all started.”

The Howses were told they were not allowed to come back into Canada unless they went into quarantine for 14 days.

“We said, ‘what do you mean, come back into Canada? We were just refused entry into the U.S. He said ‘it doesn’t matter — you’re entering into Canada from the U.S.’”

The Howses tried to explain that they had not been in the U.S. at all — that they had been denied entry, but the border guard started listing the penalties they could face if they didn’t go into the 14-day quarantine, including jail time and enormous fines.

“We were treated like crap — like we were a couple of idiots. No compassion at all. And he placed us under quarantine. And he told us we had to go directly to our address [in Invermere], and that he would be contacting the RCMP, and they will at any time during the 14 days to make sure we were at the place of quarantine.

“You are not allowed to leave your property, have anyone come to your residence … “The rules set down by this fellow — I was just appalled.”

The Howses duly returned to Invermere on Oct. 8 and went into quarantine. Grant then called Member of Parliament Rob Morrison, looking for some help on the issue.

“Rob has taken it a long way up the ladder in the political aspect of things — he’s really been a great help to us, in trying to get this resolved,” Grant said.

The Howses subsquently got a call from a Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) superintendent.

“He told us this order had come down, that anyone going into the U.S. and coming back into Canada were to go into a 14-day quarantine. Doesn’t matter if you were there for 15 minutes of 60 days. I told him that we had been denied entry. He said there was nothing he could do — it came down as an order from Service Canada.

“I said, ‘just the same, we hadn’t left the country!’ So why were we place in quarantine?’ He said, ‘I’m sorry but that’s the rule.’”

“I then told him about the actions of his employee, and how we were treated. He did say he would look into that.”

Last week, the Howses got a call from Service BC, who confirmed that they would remain under quarantine until October 22. And again, their remonstrations that they had not even left the country — that they had simply driven a few metres to a turn-around spot so they could go back to the Canadian side — did not make any difference. “Those are the rules.”

Grant was not allowed to speak with anyone higher up the ladder at Service BC.

The Howses had planned on renewing their Mexican residency while there. In fact, the deadline to do so was October 23, at the Mexican consulate in Baja. But the Howse’s agent in Baja was able to get an extension period for them to do so. The Howse’s ultimate plan to get dual citizenship, Mexican and Canadian, for all the time they spend there.

“We love the place, the country, the people,” Grant said.

In the meantime, the Howses are stuck in quarantine, and are still furious.

“This is BS,” Grant said. “It’s a bunch of politics that didn’t have to happen. This quarantine is okay in its place, but it doesn’t have to apply to everybody. Who sets these rules?

“There has to be a more neutral area.”

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

File photo
Gov’t of Alberta identifies estimated 300 new COVID-19 cases Sunday

Online COVID-19 dashboard unavailable as upgrades being completed

COVID
Red Deer down to 313 active cases of COVID-19

Alberta reports an additional 411 COVID-19 cases

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alex Panetta
Economists “cautiously hopeful” for economic recovery in Alberta

Charles St. Arnaud says Alberta’s recovery will rebound along with roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw acknowledged that Friday would be one year since the first case of COVID-19 was identified in the province. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Three more Red Deer COVID-19 deaths, 331 active cases in Alberta

Red Deer is down to 362 active cases of the virus

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

Kiara Robillard is seen in an undated handout photo. When the pandemic began, Robillard had to rush back home to Alberta from California, where she had been living for five years, after she was struck by a truck that broke her spine in two places. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Kiara Robillard, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘It kind of clicks:’ Text4Hope program helps with depression, anxiety during pandemic

Participants receive one text message every morning for three months

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

A decommissioned pumpjack is shown at a well head on an oil and gas installation near Cremona, Alta., Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016. The Alberta Energy Regulator says it is suspending all of the licences held by an oil and gas producer with more than 2,200 wells and 2,100 pipelines after it failed to bring its operations into compliance. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta Energy Regulator suspends licences of oil and gas producer that owes $67M

The company is being asked to comply with past orders to clean up historic spills and contamination

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Seniors in the 65-unit Piper Creek Lodge are among those waiting for COVID-19 vaccinations. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Central Alberta senior lodges anxiously waiting for COVID-19 vaccinations

“Should be at the front of the line, not the back of the line”

Most Read