A Virden family faces "injustice," Brandon-Souris Conservative MP Larry Maguire told the House of Commons last week, urging intervention.
The Duncan family, represented by patriarch Marshall, have been hit with fines of more than $10,000 after crossing into the U.S. earlier this month.
"This is absurd, given that the prime minister has just exempted NHL players but is willing to fine a mom and a dad $10,000 for taking their son to a medical appointment," Maguire told the House of Commons.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu responded by saying her office would look into it.
"In general, though, the measures at the border are there to protect Canadians from the importation of the virus, and we encourage all Canadians to follow the rules."
During the weekend, Marshall joined his family by nearing the end of their two-week quarantine after crossing into North Dakota on June 1.
"We thought we were exempt from everything," he said, adding that in addition to being required to pay hefty fines, they "basically wasted" two weeks of their lives.
The family’s six-year-old son was initially referred to an eye specialist in Winnipeg, through whom they received a diagnosis.
Another referral was prompted when the family decided to seek a second opinion.
Although they found an eye specialist in Edmonton, the family opted instead to visit someone in Grand Forks, N.D., thereby halving what would have otherwise been an approximately 10-hour trip.
Marshall said his wife called ahead to the border crossing south of Boissevain to make sure they were cleared to cross, at which time she was led to believe they had a medical exemption. With that clarified, a portion of the family, including the two parents, their six-year-old son and a six-year-old daughter, piled into a vehicle for a day trip.
Crossing into the United States to see the doctor was easy enough.
They ended up receiving the same diagnosis in Grand Forks as they did in Winnipeg, but with a different treatment plan.
"So, it proved useful," Marshall said, adding they travelled straight from their house to the doctor’s office before heading back home again.
"Unless I was going to get something at a gas station, we’re all fine — none of us have any symptoms or anything."
Following GPS directions for the drive back home, Marshall said they crossed into Canada at Emerson, where they were told a receipt and note from the doctor wasn’t good enough and a referral they did not have on hand was required.
They were also asked to take COVID-19 tests, which they declined.
Unless exempt, as Marshall said they believed they were, the Quarantine Act requires travellers by land to complete a COVID-19 test at the border and accept a second test to be taken several days later while in quarantine.
"No, you’re not sticking that up our nose … we’re not doing a COVID test," Marshall recalls telling the border agents, later clarifying, "I guess you could call us anti-maskers, we’re on that side of things. In our view, it’s just a flu, it’ll run its course and it’ll pass — that’s our view on things, anyway."
They left the interaction facing two fines of $5,150 — one for Marshall and one for his wife — and two weeks’ quarantine.
Marshall reached out to Maguire’s office for support, which resulted in last week’s comments in the House of Commons, after which his frustration regarding a situation he considers "ridiculous" hasn’t abated.
Although the family’s two-week quarantine ends tomorrow, there was no change in the fines they face as of Sunday.
The World Health Organization has noted there are "important differences" between influenza and COVID-19, including speed of transmission, its means of spread, range of symptoms and severity of outcomes.
According to Shared Health, 17 people with lab-confirmed cases of the flu died in Manitoba in 2018. By the one-year anniversary of the first case of COVID-19 announced in the province, 919 people in Manitoba with the virus had died.
Masks are "a key measure to suppress transmission and save lives," according to the World Health Organization, which urges mask use "for either protection of healthy persons or to prevent onward transmission."
Letting the virus run its course would increase opportunities for the virus to mutate into variants, including those carrying more severe outcomes. The World Health Organization urges ongoing health measures and scaling up vaccinations to reduce opportunities for mutations.
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