Grant and Barbara Howse, in quarantine in Invermere. Mike Turner photo

Denied entry into U.S., Kootenay couple still forced to quarantine for 2 weeks

The rules around crossing the U.S. border led to a bizarre situation for an Invermere couple

The rules around crossing the U.S. border during the pandemic led to a bizarre situation for an Invermere couple earlier this month, leaving them angry and frustrated as they were forced to go into quarantine without having technically entered the U.S. — indeed, without having even left their vehicle.

Grant and Barbara Howse were on their way to Baja, Mexico, where they have residency and property. There are rules in place to allow for this; in fact, Barbara’s son and daughter-in-law crossed the border earlier — at the Roosville border crossing.

“Originally, we were planning on flying,” Grant Howse said. “But every flight that we booked with WestJet was cancelled, or pushed to a different date. Finally, we decided to drive.

“We got to the border, waited for the command to come in to the port of entry. We explained we were on our way to Mexico, and we were residents of the country. We’re Canadian citizens, but we also have resident status in the Baja.

“But then we were told that we couldn’t go to Mexico unless we were Mexican citizens.

“We were pulling our trailer, and we loaded up to cross the States, because [Barbara’s son and daughter-in-law, who also have Mexican residency] had gone through.”

The son and daughter-in-law had been advised that they couldn’t stop except for essentials — gasoline, food — until they were over the southern border into Mexico, but otherwise they had been waved through.

The Howses explained that they had all their provisions, sanitary gear and masks, and were aware and prepared to follow all safety protocols while crossing the U.S. But even after the U.S. border checked with his supervisor, the Howes’ were still denied entry, offered no further reasons, and told to turn around. But that’s when their troubles really started.

“We were a little stunned,” Howse said.

The couple were told to drive ahead a few metres to a turn-around spot and go back to Canada, and that the U.S. border guards would call their Canadian counterparts and tell them the Howses were coming, having been refused entry.

“We turned around and came back to the Canadian side, and the fellow waved us up to the wicket. And that’s where it all started.”

The Howses were told they were not allowed to come back into Canada unless they went into quarantine for 14 days.

“We said, ‘what do you mean, come back into Canada? We were just refused entry into the U.S. He said ‘it doesn’t matter — you’re entering into Canada from the U.S.’”

The Howses tried to explain that they had not been in the U.S. at all — that they had been denied entry, but the border guard started listing the penalties they could face if they didn’t go into the 14-day quarantine, including jail time and enormous fines.

“We were treated like crap — like we were a couple of idiots. No compassion at all. And he placed us under quarantine. And he told us we had to go directly to our address [in Invermere], and that he would be contacting the RCMP, and they will at any time during the 14 days to make sure we were at the place of quarantine.

“You are not allowed to leave your property, have anyone come to your residence … “The rules set down by this fellow — I was just appalled.”

The Howses duly returned to Invermere on Oct. 8 and went into quarantine. Grant then called Member of Parliament Rob Morrison, looking for some help on the issue.

“Rob has taken it a long way up the ladder in the political aspect of things — he’s really been a great help to us, in trying to get this resolved,” Grant said.

The Howses subsquently got a call from a Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) superintendent.

“He told us this order had come down, that anyone going into the U.S. and coming back into Canada were to go into a 14-day quarantine. Doesn’t matter if you were there for 15 minutes of 60 days. I told him that we had been denied entry. He said there was nothing he could do — it came down as an order from Service Canada.

“I said, ‘just the same, we hadn’t left the country!’ So why were we place in quarantine?’ He said, ‘I’m sorry but that’s the rule.’”

“I then told him about the actions of his employee, and how we were treated. He did say he would look into that.”

Last week, the Howses got a call from Service BC, who confirmed that they would remain under quarantine until October 22. And again, their remonstrations that they had not even left the country — that they had simply driven a few metres to a turn-around spot so they could go back to the Canadian side — did not make any difference. “Those are the rules.”

Grant was not allowed to speak with anyone higher up the ladder at Service BC.

The Howses had planned on renewing their Mexican residency while there. In fact, the deadline to do so was October 23, at the Mexican consulate in Baja. But the Howse’s agent in Baja was able to get an extension period for them to do so. The Howse’s ultimate plan to get dual citizenship, Mexican and Canadian, for all the time they spend there.

“We love the place, the country, the people,” Grant said.

In the meantime, the Howses are stuck in quarantine, and are still furious.

“This is BS,” Grant said. “It’s a bunch of politics that didn’t have to happen. This quarantine is okay in its place, but it doesn’t have to apply to everybody. Who sets these rules?

“There has to be a more neutral area.”

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Rori Denness throws a javelin during BC Summer Games in 2016. (Black Press Media file photo)
Port Alberni ponders bidding for 2026 B.C. Summer Games

Port Alberni last hosted the BC Winter Games in 2004

Victoria artisan Tina Neurauter, right, used to shop at Pot Luck Ceramics with her daughter from Port Alberni. Now Neurauter is selling her handmade soaps and bath products at Bibi J’s, a new enterprise in the former Pot Luck Ceramics building on Gertrude Street in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Former Pot Luck Ceramics location reimagined as Bibi J’s

Owner Helma Swinkels revives social enterprise with new name, vision

The Rollin Art Centre’s Mistletoe Market begins on Dec. 1. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
ARTS AROUND: Rollin Art Centre prepares for Mistletoe Market

Artisans and crafters are still needed for annual Christmas craft fair

‘Homelessness’ means many things to people with no permanent place to sleep. For some, the challenge to find safe shelter is greater than for others. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni mother battles to find housing for her son

Mary Elles fears her son will die on the street before he will find safe housing

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Number of people in hospital is nearing 300, while total cases near 30,000

The corporate headquarters of Pfizer Canada are seen in Montreal, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. The chief medical adviser at Health Canada says Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine could be approved in Canada next month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Health Canada expects first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved next month

Canada has a purchase deal to buy at least 20 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine,

Port McNeill councillor Derek Koel busts a rap to help promote the town’s active transportation plan. (Facebook video screenshot)
VIDEO: Vancouver Island councillor makes rap video to promote active transportation plan

Active transportation is a personal matter for councillor Derek Koel.

FILE – A paramedic holds a test tube containing a blood sample during an antibody testing program at the Hollymore Ambulance Hub, in Birmingham, England, on Friday, June 5, 2020. (Simon Dawson/Pool via AP)
Want to know if you’ve had COVID-19? LifeLabs is offering an antibody test

Test costs $75 and is available in B.C. and Ontario

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The grey region of this chart shows the growth of untraced infection, due to lack of information on potential sources. With added staff and reorganization, the gap is stabilized, Dr. Bonnie Henry says. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 tracing to keep up with surging cases

People now notified of test results by text message

People wear face masks as they pose next to a Christmas display in Montreal, Sunday, November 22, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
How to tell family their Christmas gathering is too risky and you’re not going

Dr. Hurst says it’s best to frame the conversation from a place of care, stressing safety precautions.

Most Read