An unvaccinated Abbotsford man has been quarantined for 14 days after talking to US border agents on Wednesday (Jan. 12) for about 10 minutes but not actually visiting the country.
Michele Matteazzi, a local realtor, is now questioning whether common sense is applied to situations such as his at the border.
“There is a difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law,” he said.
“Yeah, technically I ‘crossed’ the (border) for a few minutes and came back, but I was not on some vacation at some hotel and partying with 300 other people.”
The incident arose in relation to questions that Matteazzi had about a planned medical procedure in Dallas in May for his wife, Tiffany.
She is an athlete who formerly threw javelin for Team Canada and has had some “fluke accidents” to her nose. Tiffany has already had a few surgeries in Canada, but she was still having breathing difficulties, and her situation was becoming too complicated for doctors on this side of the border.
Surgery has been booked in Dallas with “the best guy in the word for reconstructive rhinoplasty,” Matteazzi said.
The couple are both unvaccinated – Matteazzi because of an auto-immune condition and Tiffany because she wants to get pregnant with the couple’s third child. Matteazzi said they are not comfortable with “the lack of clinical trials” for the COVID vaccines and the potential side effects.
Matteazzi said the couple became concerned when they heard that new rules could be coming into effect in relation to unvaccinated people crossing the border into the U.S.
Matteazzi searched online for more clarity on the issue, particularly in relation to medical exemptions, but couldn’t find the answers he was looking for.
He decided to go to the Abbotsford-Huntingdon border crossing to have his questions addressed in person. Matteazzi parked his car and walked up to an agent in the booth to ask his questions.
When a car pulled up, the agent suggested that Matteazzi speak with someone inside the building.
Matteazzi said he was fully masked and kept a six-foot distance as he spoke to an employee inside for about five minutes. As he was leaving, the agent told Matteazzi to make sure he quickly checked in with the Canadian side.
“I just poke my head in the door and get in the line, and get waved up. I said, ‘I was just talking to the U.S. agent. I had some questions about travel so he told me to check in here on the way back just so you guys are all good.’”
Matteazzi said he was then asked to show a vaccine passport and his ArriveCAN information – neither of which he had.
He said he explained that he hadn’t spent any time in the U.S., other than the 10 minutes he had been talking to the two border agents.
The agent told him, because he had “crossed” into the U.S., he was subject to the same rules as any other unvaccinated traveller coming back into Canada.
Matteazzi was permitted to plead his case with the health officer on shift.
“He said, ‘Let me talk to my manager,’ and he kind of explained what happened … He comes back a few minutes later and says, ‘Sorry, I spoke to my manager, but you’re unvaccinated. There’s no way around it.’”
This meant that Matteazzi had to do a COVID-19 test on Wednesday and will have to do another one on day eight, as well as quarantine for 14 days.
He said he was “beyond shocked” that the situation happened to him.
“At the time, I thought it was like the airport where you’re not ‘in the country’ until you cross through customs – an honest mistake on my part.”
Matteazzi was permitted back into Canada after he got Tiffany to send a picture of his actual passport and he downloaded and filled out the ArriveCAN app.
He said he is fortunate he can do some of his work from home while he is in isolation. As well, his brother is his business partner and can help with house showings.
Matteazzi said he thinks more common sense could have been applied to his situation.
“A stern warning and an apology – admitting I wouldn’t do it again – should suffice,” he said.
Matteazzi said the border agents didn’t have the answers he needed, but Tiffany will reschedule her surgery if they don’t meet the requirements to travel to the U.S.
The Abbotsford News has reached out to Canada Border Services Agency, but hasn’t yet received a reply.
CBSA senior spokesperson Rebecca Purdy said she could not comment on Matteazzi’s specific case, but said anyone who leaves Canada is subject to the “enhanced screening measures” regardless of the duration of their trip.
She said the measures include using ArriveCAN to submit their information within 72 hours before arriving in Canada. Travellers who do not meet the criteria or who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated must follow COVID-19 testing requirements and quarantine for 14 days, she added.
“CBSA border services officers use all of the information available to them when a traveller is seeking entry into Canada to determine which set of instructions apply to the traveller,” Purdy said.
She said the Public Health Agency of Canada is responsible for the Quarantine Act and the orders in council that outline travellers’ obligations when entering Canada.
“It is important to note that CBSA BSOs (border service officers) do not have discretion or authority to overcome the obligations and requirements as prescribed in the orders in council in place,” Purdy said.
She said the federal government continues to recommend that people avoid all non-essential travel, regardless of vaccination status.
Purdy recommended that people visit travel.gc.ca/travel-covid for more information.