Mounties issue travel reminder after U.S. boater fined for ignoring COVID-19 law

SURREY, B.C. — Foreign boaters should be careful to follow the rules ahead of the Labour Day long weekend, B.C. Mounties say after an American sailor was fined and forced to turn around for failing to follow COVID-19 legislation.

Cpl. Daniel Michaud, with the RCMP's Federal Serious and Organized Crime unit, said officers will be working closely with the Coast Guard and others to ensure vessels coming from American waters abide by Canadian regulations during the long weekend.

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"We know when long weekends and things of that nature happen … people might take some vacation to enjoy the water. We have our eyes and ears and technology to check that out," he said in an interview.

The warning comes after an American was fined and forced to leave B.C. waters for failing to follow COVID-19 quarantine measures on Aug. 31.

The vessel was spotted at Ucluelet, B.C., and the owner was subsequently fined $2,000 for failing to report to border agents as well as violating the Quarantine Act.

A spokesman for Canada Border Services Agency, which intercepted the vessel along with RCMP, said in a statement that American boaters can enter Canadian waters under certain circumstances.

"Boaters are still permitted to navigate across international waters if needed but are not allowed to enter Canadian territorial or boundary waters for discretionary, leisure (non-essential) reasons, including entry for touring, sightseeing and pleasure fishing," said Louis-Carl Brissette Lesage in an email.

He added that any diversion for sightseeing would be prohibited and face possible enforcement.

The Quarantine Act states that anyone entering Canada, including Canadian waters, must quarantine for 14 days. It bans all non-essential travel into Canada.

Failing to follow the act could lead to a six-month prison sentence and up to $750,000 in fines.

Michaud could not comment on the specifics of the Ucluelet case but said boaters who travel in the waters around B.C. are experienced.

"The navigation of these waters are complicated, so these are experienced boaters," he said. "Our impression is that they're experienced boaters and all of the laws and regulations are explained to them."

Michaud did not have a complete number of American-owned vessels that have been fined and forced to leave but believes it's less than 10.

In July, two U.S. boat operators were fined for entering B.C. waters for tourism purposes.

Both of those owners were fined $1,000 after they were located.

This report was first published by The Canadian Press on Sept. 4, 2020.

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