When Mitch Beaulieu arrived home in Calgary from a business trip to Florida on Jan. 25, he says he was whisked away by police and security in a van with blacked-out windows and taken to an undisclosed quarantine location.
“They’re just like ushering me out. I’m like, ‘What is happening here? Like, I don’t want to go with you guys. Where are we going?’ They’re like, ‘Sir, we can’t tell you where you’re going,'” he said Wednesday.
Beaulieu said he was quarantined for three days without his luggage while a guard stood outside his room.
“I thought I was in a sci-fi movie. It was unbelievable,” he said.
“I get there and everything is plastic, white. Those really bright lights. Everyone is wearing yellow suits and masks.”
Beaulieu said he asked everyone he encountered for answers but didn’t get any.
“I’m point-blank asking these people, ‘Why am I here?’ ‘Sorry, sir. We can’t tell you.’ ‘How long am I here for?’ ‘Sorry, sir. We can’t tell you.’ ‘Why am I being detained?’ ‘Sorry, sir. We can’t tell you,'” he said.
Beaulieu was filming with his production company in the U.S., and to his knowledge, said he followed the rules with essential travel for work. He said he landed with a negative COVID-19 test he bought in the U.S. and had one at the isolation hotel.
“I’m the one that’s being told that I’m doing something wrong, even though I’m following every single law and procedure that’s out there for us to make sure that we are being safe and not transmitting this virus to anybody else when we’re landing here,” he said.
Feds detail designated quarantine facilities
The federal government told Global News it cannot comment on individual cases but will provide further details in the coming days on the new measures for testing and quarantine requirements.
“In the customs hall, a screening officer will ensure travellers understand their quarantine and testing obligations, verify that the traveller has a valid negative COVID-19 molecular test result and that their quarantine plan aligns with the information provided via the ArriveCAN app,” said Tammy Jarbeau, senior media relations advisor for Health Canada.
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Jarbeau said an officer will then assess the traveller’s pre-departure test.
“If it’s determined that the test is not valid, the traveller will be advised and reinformed of the requirements for quarantine,” she said via email.
“The traveller will be provided with the location of the DQF where they will be staying and will be informed of their options to either pay to take a COVID-19 molecular test and given accommodation at the DQF while they await their results or carry out the full 14-day quarantine at the DQF.
“Officers will ensure that the travellers fully understand the process and their options.”
Jarbeau added that travellers can “share information freely with family or loved ones” and take all belongings to the facility.
“Travellers who choose to take a COVID-19 test will be able to leave the designated quarantine facility upon receipt of a negative test, typically received within 24-48 hours,” she explained.
“They can then proceed to their final destination to complete the remainder of their 14-day quarantine, at a suitable location, often their place of residence.”
If someone tests positive, they have to carry out the remainder of their 14-day quarantine at the facility.
“The individual situation of each traveller is carefully assessed and monitored by on-site staff throughout their stay to ensure the health and safety of the traveller,” Jarbeau said.
Transparency and tailoring
Sajjad Fazel, a post-doctoral associate at the University of Calgary who researches public health misinformation, says the government might be going about this the wrong way — not when it comes to the actual quarantine but how the message is being relayed.
“When you make a policy and you know that there’s a conspiracy theory out there, maybe it’ll be good to make things clear, be more transparent and tailor that messaging,” he said.
Misinformation, mixed messaging from politicians and pandemic fatigue contribute to people distrusting the system, which, in turn, reduces their chances of following recommendations, he said.
“Canadians and people, in general, prefer when politicians and public health agencies and authorities would say that, ‘This is what we know, this is what we don’t know and this is what we’re trying to find out,’ instead of trying to go with a we-know-everything type of answer,” Fazel said.
“Also stating clearly that certain policies and public health restrictions may change based on the number of active cases, based on the outbreak.”
All Beaulieu said he wanted was answers.
“The place wasn’t bad. I’m not complaining about the fact that they put me in a hotel and I had to stay there for three days. That’s fine,” he said.
“What I’m complaining about here is this little thing that we have called the Constitution and my rights as a Canadian. I felt as if I was treated like a suspected terrorist, like I was being detained indefinitely on the basis of some secret evidence without being charged with any criminal offence.”
Alberta government calls on feds for clarity
In a letter dated Feb. 3, Alberta’s health and justice ministers wrote to their federal counterparts, calling for clearer communication on its screening and quarantine requirements for arriving air passengers.
While Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Justice Minister Kaycee Madu noted the importance of adequate border measures amid the pandemic, “the lack of clear communication has created confusion and fear about ‘unlawful detention,’ which will erode Canadians’ trust in their governments.
“As the government of Alberta, we demand a clear and definitive explanation from federal officials on the travel quarantine policy and how it is applied,” read the letter addressed to Bill Blair and Patty Hajdu.
“We agree that people entering Canada have a responsibility to inform themselves about and fully comply with all testing and quarantine requirements. However, the government of Alberta must insist that when travellers to Alberta are required to go to a federal quarantine facility, the location of the facility must be disclosed, and, more importantly, an opportunity to contact a family member be immediately allowed before they are taken to any designated quarantine facility.”