Just two days after a New Brunswick university student recounted a tale of mixed messages and confusion as she tried to cross the Canada-U.S. border last week, a couple from Nova Scotia are now sharing their own recent experience with Canada Border Services Agency.
Paul Allen and Ellen Carusetta are retired university professors who live in the Halifax area, but spend winters in Florida.
Allen said Carusetta prepared “weeks in advance” before their scheduled trip back to Canada, with the latest COVID-19 protocol and verbal permission from Canada Border Services Agency to drive their Florida-plated car across the border.
They had planned to drive the car to their home in Goodwood, N.S., remove its insurance and not drive again until it was time to head back to the U.S. in the fall.
Allen said they detailed their plan to CBSA staff at the St. Stephen border, but were told they would still have to import the vehicle at a cost of $2,000.
“They asked, ‘Well, who did you call?'” Allen began. “And my wife gave them the number and she replied, ‘Well, you probably talked to somebody at a call centre.’ I would have liked to have said, ‘Well, the call centre is your call centre, isn’t it?’ But you don’t argue too much at the border with people.”
Allen and Carusetta admitted they did not have the name of the person they contacted, but Carusetta said she purposely called a number with a 506 area code because she thought she would be able to speak to someone who could give her accurate information specific to that border crossing.
The couple paid the fee, but the travel disruption did not stop there.
Carusetta said border agents accused the couple of circumventing the three-day federal isolation regulations by driving instead of flying.
“You know, the (isolation) hotel is one thing,” Carusetta began. “But we would have had to go through three airports and be on three different airplanes, and I didn’t like that idea one bit. I mean, we are over 70. We have had our (COVID-19) vaccine but still want to be careful.”
Allen and Carusetta are now in isolation at home.
Their story comes on the heels of New Brunswick student Danika Thebeau, who was turned away at St. Stephen and Woodstock border crossings last week because of her car, despite getting written approval from Transport Canada to gain entry.
Thibeau, a biology student at University of New Brunswick who has been learning remotely during the pandemic, said she has now contacted federal and provincial politicians in an effort to resolve her situation.
She has been staying with family in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, since the weekend but said she’ll head back to Florida next week if she can’t get into Canada.
“You know, people are telling me to try again, go across the border, maybe try a different one,” Thebeau said Wednesday.
“But they also didn’t go through what I went through, the denial, sitting there for four hours just hoping for the best, and when the outcome isn’t what you hoped it just destroys you in a sense.”