friends and family reuinion road trip: day fourteen: portland to delta, in which we miss a crucial step

Step one: you must use an app

We left Portland and drove north uneventfully. As we approached the border, I remembered that we were supposed to use the "ArriveCAN" app to facilitate our return. We considered pulling over to use it, but didn't. Then the fun began.

The border agent checked our passports, then asked to see the information on the app. We told her we didn't have the app but had our vaccination cards.

Border Guard said she couldn't accept our cards -- that she couldn't even look at them.

Border Guard escalated her questions. In my experience on both sides of the border, when anything is a little off, you get a lot more questions. She asked the alcohol, tobacco, firearms question three separate times. She asked if we were bringing vaccines into the country. She expressed skepticism that we hadn't gone shopping, or that we had only bought books. Many questions.

BG said she didn't have to let us use the app now, but that she would. This time. I find this is also fairly typical: "I don't have to do this, but I will grant you this privilege."

Something about this seems not quite right. BG says we can enter Canada "by right," but we can't enter without using the app and she doesn't have to let us in to use the app. And without the app we would be subject to quarantine.

I said I had read that fully vaccinated Canadians re-entering the company no longer had to be quarantined. This seemed to piss off BG and she scolded me: fourth wave of covid, surging numbers, delta variant, blah blah blah. She wrote some stuff on a card, and told us to see an agent inside. 

Step two: use the app, but you must be tested

The CBSA agent inside was friendly and seemed to assume we didn't use the app because we had trouble with the technology. I found this amusing, but of course I didn't say anything. We sat down to use the magical app -- scanned our vaccine cards, our passports, relevant dates, and so on.

The agent said we did great (ha!) then noted we left blank the part about our recent covid test.

We tell her we have not been tested. 

She repeated that we were allowed to enter Canada by right, but because we had not shown the result of a covid test, we would likely be quarantined. But, she said, that was not within her jurisdiction. We would have to speak with a public health officer. She made it very clear that there was the CBSA issue (app) and the PHO issue (covid test), and her role was finished.

Step three: you must be tested or you will be fined

The PHO took it from the top. She collected all our information from our vaccination cards, our reasons for being in the US, home addresses, etc., writing down everything longhand, in an notebook.

PHO also confirmed that we can enter Canada "by right," provided we have met certain requirements. And one of the requirements is proof of a negative covid test within 72 hours of crossing.

Believe me, had I known this, we would have gotten tested!

PHO said we had two options. We could go back to the US and get tested, then provide the PHO with the test results, or we "may be subject to a fine". The fine is a lot

She gave us some information, printed from the government website, detailing what kind of covid tests are acceptable, and some places where we can get tested. Some test results may be available within 24 hours. Others take several days.

We sat down again, and began calling testing facilities. It wasn't easy.

Some places have only online registration, but the URL doesn't work, or you need a US address, or it says to call the number that just sent you online.

One place said there is a national shortage of test kits and they have stopped all testing.

Another place was open until 4:30, but here was a 2-3 hour wait. It was 3:45, and the place was at least 30 minutes away.

Another place said results take three or four days.

Two or three places were not accessible by either phone or internet.

At that point, I was prepared to choose what's behind door number two. If we're fined, I would try to get it waived or reduced.

We tell PHO we can't find a way to make this work -- the proper test, with results available within an acceptable time frame -- and we'll opt for the fine.

Step four: now get tested, but someone else might fine you

Now PHO says she has no power to fine us, that will be up to the RCMP.

And still we're not free to go. Despite being fully vaccinated, and despite the fact that fully vaccinated people can enter Canada without quarantine, we must be tested at the border, and we will have to self-isolate.

PHO went over the rules for self-isolating. I have already done this once -- although I didn't tell her that! -- so I know the drill. 

Next we are sent to the testing tent. Some very kind health workers gave us two test kits each -- one for Day One and one for Day Eight. They helped us register the kits, linking the kit IDs with our passports. It's a multi-step process involving a lot of onscreen typing. We're doing this outside, standing up, outside the tent. I was tired and felt dehydrated. The whole process seemed ableist and ageist. 

After that, another kind health worker walked us through a self-administered covid test. It was easy and didn't involve any pain or discomfort. 

That was the Day One test. For the Day Eight test, we will give ourselves the test while while being observed via Microsoft Teams. 

Step five is in the future: we may or may not be fined

Finally, we were allowed to leave. The dogs had been waiting in the car and were pretty happy to see us. We drove to the Coast Tsawwassen Inn, had a good dinner in our room, and took an early ferry in the morning. We had an easy, uneventful drive home, and are happy to be here.

We're self-isolating now, and I assume we will get a visit from the RCMP. But I have a hard time believing that we will be fined. We didn't travel before being fully vaccinated. We traveled for a family reunion. We didn't know we needed a covid test, or we would have had gotten one. I can't see our local RCMP fining us in these circumstances. But we shall see!


Ben Burd said...

Not to be critical - code for Yes I am, Howcum you never knew about the testing requirement for the return?

johngoldfine said...


Reading this cemented Jean's resolution to skip travel to Iceland for the second straight year. And for us, no smart cellphones, the technology would be impossible.

laura k said...

They are obligated to provide you with an alternative. But how you would get the alternative, and how that would work, might only add to the cluster.

Jean is probably wise to skip it anyway. If I hadn't been motivated by the chance to see my family, I'm sure we would have traveled in BC.

Amy said...

If this is how they treat Canadian citizens, I can only imagine how they are treating Americans who want to visit Canada. Harvey has a conference next May in TO, and we are planning to spend some time there. (More questions on what to do in and around TO to follow.) This story and your past stories about crossing the border PRE-Covid make me wonder what we have ahead of us.

How was it entering the US from Canada? You didn't write about that, so I assume you had no problems. Do you still have US passports as well as Canadian?

laura k said...

Howcum you never knew about the testing requirement for the return?

Not sure how I can answer that. How do I know why I didn't know something?

If this is a rhetorical question, I'll just say, I wish I had known. But if you're just an asshole, please fuck right off.

laura k said...

Amy, May 2022, in pandemic terms, is a very long time away. The situation with the border changes every few weeks. Eventually it will be open with proof of vaccination.

Right now US citizens can't get in at all, unless you're dual citizens and residents of Canada (besides being vaccinated and having the covid test proof). So you'd have nothing to worry about.

laura k said...

Also, Amy:

My past border issues certainly don't apply to you. That was very specific -- *entering* the US, targeted because of activism.

We have only Canadian passports, and had no problem getting in the US. At this point, the border closure is closed by Canada only.

Amy said...

Thanks, Laura. Yes, who knows where we will be by May 22. Maybe things will have returned to some form of normal, or maybe the assholes in the US will continue to refuse to get vaccinated, and we will be up to Variant Omega by then. And if Americans cannot get into Canada in May 2022, then obviously this conference (which is mostly attended by Americans) will have to be cancelled, moved, or remote only.


laura k said...

It also seems unfair that Harvey has a conference in Toronto NOW, when we're not there!!

Ben Burd said...

@laura k said...
Howcum you never knew about the testing requirement for the return?

Not sure how I can answer that. How do I know why I didn't know something?

If this is a rhetorical question, I'll just say, I wish I had known. But if you're just an asshole, please fuck right off.@

Not sure why one would get offended by a question about something that travellers should know - check the incoming rules for travellers to Canada and it states that a PCR test is required to enter.

BTW I do not consider myself an asshole, just a person, who as a frequent traveller knew this requirement. Maybe this makes me a 'knowitall' but no ahole!

allan said...

Howcum you never knew about the testing requirement for the return?

Because we saw nothing on the official Government of Canada website that indicated testing was a requirement. One would think such an important and essential step (which involves planning several days before your arrival) would be prominently displayed. It was/is not. (It's not even on the same webpage as the other requirements for re-entry!!)

Also. Let's say we were tested on Wednesday and a quick turnaround gave us our negative results on Thursday and we crossed the border later that day. What if we had contracted COVID early on Thursday? We would have a negative test and would not self-isolate - and we would both have the virus.

laura k said...

Ben Burd, I'm not offended. I don't offend very easily. I just didn't know how to read your question, as I've never seen you here before.

Your second comment clarifies: you're saying I should have known.

Clearly we *should have* known. But we didn't. Why would you pop in to a stranger's blog to tell them their troubles are their own fault?

If asshole doesn't suit, perhaps prick is a better fit?

Alas, we'll never know.

Ben Burd said...

Two items Laura k, if you post on wide-spread blog like Progressive bloggers you must be inviting strangers to read it and if you have a comment page you must be inviting comments, if you invite comments you have to have a thick skin and not be afraid of comments you don't like.

If you don't like comments or their authors you should not be insulting them and calling them names, that just reveals a lot about your personality!

Secondly look what I found on the Government website: https://travel.gc.ca/travel-covid/travel-restrictions/covid-vaccinated-travellers-entering-canada#determine-fully

It covers the rules!

laura k said...

One item Ben Burd, I've been blogging since 2004, and I'm not afraid of commenters of any type. However, I do control who comments and what kind of comments are posted. This blog is my happy place and I don't want anyone, including myself, to need thick skin to hang out here.

My comment policy is here.

Sadly, Blogger ate thousands of comments posted from 2006 to 2020, including many lengthy and enjoyable discussions. There is still a chance they will be restored. I am still hoping.

You, however, have now been given a rare second chance. Perhaps you will use it wisely, without lecturing, blaming, or pontificating.

allan said...

Perhaps you will use it wisely, without lecturing, blaming, or pontificating.

I'm guessing he will not.

Ben Burd said...

"Perhaps you will use it wisely, without lecturing, blaming, or pontificating."

As you are doing now!

laura k said...

Strike three! Buh-bye!

laura k said...

Update: we were not visited by the RCMP and were not fined.