Canadian Police Quarantine Traveling Pastor Despite Negative COVID-19 Test

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Getty An Air Canada worker waits for travelers at a nearly empty O'Hare International Airport on April 2, 2020, in Chicago.

Canadian pastor Nikki Mathis was put into quarantine at a hotel by authorities after she flew into Canada from the United States. Her husband, pastor Chris Mathis, shared details on Facebook in a post that has gone viral, calling the incident “wildly concerning.”

Nikki Mathis flew home on January 28. On January 29, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced new rules requiring all air travelers to quarantine in a designated hotel — at their own expense — for up to three days after arriving in Canada, as they await results from a required test given at the border.

The existing policy that has been in effect since March of 2020 requires a 14-day quarantine or isolation period for travelers coming into Canada, but travelers could choose where to spend their 14 days. Under the new policy announced Friday, travelers must quarantine at the government-chosen hotel until their test results are available.

“Those with negative test results will then be able to quarantine at home under significantly increased surveillance and enforcement,” Trudeau said when announcing the hotel quarantine requirement. Anyone with a positive test must quarantine in a government facility.

A press release announcing the policy update said the new hotel quarantine procedure would be implemented “as soon as possible.”

It’s not clear if Mathis was quarantined on January 28 under the new restrictions that weren’t announced until the following day. The Western Standard reported that it “appears” she was quarantined under the new rules, but this is not confirmed.


Her Negative Rapid Test for COVID-19 Was Accepted When Boarding, But Not at the Border

Chris Mathis, who is lead pastor at The Summit Church – Edmonton, posted on Facebook late Thursday night about his wife’s experience. According to her Facebook bio, Nikki Mathis is also a pastor at The Summit Church – Edmonton. Heavy has reached out to both Chris and Nikki Mathis for comment.

Chris Mathis wrote on Facebook that he and his wife had been honoring COVID-19 regulations, even when they didn’t agree with them. He said that Canada had introduced a rapid test and that Nikki was told she was free to travel as long as she had a negative test before leaving for the United States and before returning to Canada. He said that she got a negative test result before boarding on January 28, but her result was rejected when she arrived in Calgary.

Chris Mathis wrote, in part:

She was free to travel as long as she had a negative test before she left for the states, and another one before she came home. Canadian airlines will NOT let you board if you do not produce a negative result before boarding. She produced her negative result before boarding the flight home tonight on January 28th, 2021. She arrived in Calgary tonight and when she got there she was greeted by a Police Officer and an AHS official. They rejected her results and told her she needed to go immediately to an isolation facility. She was told if she resisted she would be arrested.

Nikki Mathis, who has access to social media where she’s being quarantined, shared her husband’s post on her Facebook page, too, and answered questions from people who commented.

She wrote that the quarantine requirements changed while she was in the United States. She said originally, the requirements were that you had to quarantine for two days after getting a rapid test when landing in Canada. Still, she wrote, she should have been able to quarantine at home.

“There is no good reason for me to have to do it in a hotel instead of home,” she wrote.

In his speech announcing the changes, Trudeau cited “new variants of the virus” as a reason for the hotel quarantine policy.

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Canada’s travel website noted that starting January 7, 2021, air travelers are required to have a negative molecular COVID-19 test (PCR or RT-LAMP) and the results must be provided before boarding international flights. However, Mathis took the wrong test; her test was a rapid antigen test, not a molecular test.

Mathis shared that she got her test at a medical clinic in Dallas, where she explained what she needed the test for. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States’ policy on COVID-19 tests for air travel applies only to travelers coming into the United States, not travelers who are leaving. The U.S. policy also allows antigen tests, which differs from Canada’s policy.

She added that the airline also accepted the test and allowed her to board.

“They should have denied it so I could have gone … for the correct test,” she wrote.

The CDC specifies that airlines are responsible for checking for the correct documentation of travelers coming to the U.S., and that’s true in Canada, as well. In an announcement published on December 31, 2020, explaining the testing policy slated to go into effect on January 7, the Canadian government puts the onus on airlines to check test results of passengers traveling to Canada.

“Documentation of a negative laboratory test result must be presented to the airline prior to boarding a flight to Canada,” the announcement said.

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Canadian rules also require that travelers coming into Canada use ArriveCAN — an app released by the Canadian government last July — to submit their travel and contact information, a quarantine plan and a self-assessment of symptoms. The site also noted that not following the requirements could lead to six months in prison or $750,000 in fines.

Prior to Trudeau’s announcement, the government’s website noted that those entering Canada must isolate for 14 days if they have symptoms, quarantine for 14 days if they don’t have symptoms, and comply with all mandatory quarantine and isolation requirements. Negative tests don’t exclude travelers from the quarantine requirements, the site noted.

The site also noted: “As a traveller, you must demonstrate that you have an adequate plan for quarantine. … If flying to Canada as a final destination, all travellers, regardless of citizenship, must use ArriveCAN to submit their plan. You must use ArriveCAN before you board your flight to Canada. … You must go directly to the place where you will isolate and stay there for 14 days. This is mandatory and starts from the date you arrive in Canada.”

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Nikki Mathis shared on Facebook that she did have a “solid plan” for quarantining, which she told authorities about. She didn’t specify whether she submitted her plan via the ArriveCAN app, as required by the federal government. According to Air Canada, “Travellers must be ready to show their ArriveCAN receipt when seeking entry into Canada; a border services officer will verify that they have submitted their information digitally.”

“There is absolutely no good reason why I can’t go home and quarentine and have to be held against my will in a facility,” she wrote. “I literally would be driving to my house. Instead of driving to a facility.”


Her Husband Said He Wasn’t Told Which Hotel His Wife Was Taken To

Chris Mathis wrote on Facebook that officials wouldn’t tell him where they were taking his wife for her mandatory isolation. He wrote:

I talked with both a Police Officer and the AHS official, they reiterated what she had said to me. I asked for the address of where she would be, they said they could NOT give me the location address as it was confidential. I asked for their names, again they would not give me any information or their names. I pushed, I questioned, I tried to fight but they said they would arrest her if she resisted. They would NOT give me any information on where they were taking my wife. She was not allowed to get her vehicle from the airport, she was immediately put in a white van surrounded by police escorts and taken to an unknown facility that is under full surveillance and has security at every entrance and exit. You can imagine I am barely keeping myself together wondering what in the world has happened in our country in what seems to be overnight.


A Lawsuit Against Canada’s Federal Government Is in the Works

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) — an organization similar to the ACLU in the United States — has announced plans to file a lawsuit against Canada’s federal government over the new quarantine policy, which it says “aligns with the practices of repressive and undemocratic regimes.”

In a letter addressed to Canadian Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra, JCCF writes that “mandatory quarantine … even with negative PCR test results” and “mandatory 14-day confinement … in federal facilities at undivulged locations” show “a disturbing and even aggressive opposition to the constitutional rights and freedoms of Canadians.”

The Buffalo Tribune reported that David Yurdiga, a member of Parliament, is also monitoring the situation.

Yurdiga told the Buffalo Tribune, “This incident goes against everything that makes us Canadians. We should demand far better from our government; to not even know where our loved ones are being held is a both a breach of government trust and a massive instance of state overreach.”

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