A University of New Brunswick student has hit a roadblock as she tries to come home from the United States.
But it’s not COVID-19 that has her stuck in neutral.
Danika Thebeau is a dual Canadian-U.S. citizen, born in Moncton but living recently in Florida with her boyfriend.
She’s taking biology at UNB, learning remotely during the pandemic.
On Thursday, she tried to cross the Canada-U.S. border at St. Stephen, N.B., to return home for a summer job with the federal government, but she was turned back — not because of COVID-19 protocol, but because of her car.
“They told me that I didn’t reside in New Brunswick even though I had proof of my contract for the federal government, proof of enrolment, I had my Canadian driver’s license,” Thebeau said.
Thebeau said Canada Borders Services Agency (CBSA) staff told her she had to register her 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan and pay duties on it, even though she would only be in Canada until school began again in the fall.
She and her father, Norm, say they spoke with Transport Canada and got what they believed to be the required paperwork to satisfy the CBSA concerns.
Danika tried to cross the border again on Friday — this time in Woodstock, N.B. — and was denied again after spending four hours at the border. Her vehicle had been flagged after the previous day’s attempt.
Norm said he’s at a loss trying to figure out why.
“I wish I knew what the answers were,” he said. “If she can’t bring in the vehicle, let us know. Let us know why and we’ll make other arrangements.”
Danika said she has had two doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and took a COVID test, in conjunction with federal requirements, prior to heading north. She said she also arranged for hotel accommodations at the Hilton in Saint John as part of provincial guidelines for people crossing any borders.
She said she could have flown through Toronto but would have had to pay hotel and food costs on her own. She made a five-day drive from Florida instead because students have their hotel costs covered by the provincial government and the Canadian Red Cross.
She said she is “scarred” from the experience.
“In St. Stephen, the guy belittled me,” she said. “He was so disrespectful. It was such an emotional experience. It was probably one of the hardest moments of my life.”
In an email to Global News, a spokesperson from CBSA said there is “no restriction under the current Orders in Council aimed at minimizing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in Canada that prevents Canadian residents from returning to Canada in a US-plated vehicle.”
“However, Canadian residents who return to Canada with a US-plated vehicle, must, after a maximum of 30 days, either pay duty and taxes to permanently import them or export them back to the United States. Extensions may apply in exceptional circumstances, as specified in the Temporary Importation of Conveyances by Residents of Canada Regulations. If the CBSA officer is not satisfied that the vehicle will be exported within the prescribed timelines, they do have the authority under the Customs Act to refuse the temporary importation.”
Transport Canada did not respond to requests from Global News for comment on this story.
Danika is staying with relatives in the Boston area, spending extra money on gas and groceries while trying to get her trip back in gear.
“If I could go back, I wouldn’t do it alone,” she said. “I would have someone with me, for sure.”