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Apparent loophole in travel restrictions allows Canadians to travel to U.S.
VANCOUVER -- Jamie Tarlier and her husband planned to meet at Peace Arch Provincial Park Friday afternoon, the day after it reopened, but then she heard there might be another option. So she booked a flight from YVR to Seattle instead.
"I just sort of took a leap and booked a flight to Seattle for 7:30 this morning," she told CTV News Friday. She’d heard other Canadians had done the same thing, successfully, flying out of Vancouver and Toronto.
"I just wasn’t nervous about it because if I went and they told me I couldn’t go, no losses," said Tarlier. "At least I tried."
Like so many couples, she and her husband, Mike Dunn, have been separated because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He lives in Bellingham and she lives in Delta. The pair were married Nov. 4 and have been going through the immigration process.
"It’s really hard because you’re supposed to be quarantining with your family and we’re each other’s family so it’s been really hard for us not to have each other," said Tarlier.
On March 21, Canada and the U.S. implemented border restrictions to all non-essential travel which is in place until at least May 21. Land borders have been at a virtual standstill ever since, separating many families and couples who live on either side, but some people appear to have found a loophole travelling by air.
Tarlier said she was questioned when she arrived at customs.
"They told me that the rules are the same for land border and air flying," she said, adding that she told the officer she was going to see her husband. "I was completely honest."
Then, they let her through.
"What seems to have happened is this rule that the Americans enacted on March 20 seems to only have been directed to the land port of entries," said immigration lawyer Len Saunders.
He told CTV News he only found out about this loophole when a client of his called him Wednesday to say he was in Las Vegas.
"Whoever drafted that rule probably didn’t realize that you have these U.S. pre-flight clearance facilities on Canadian soil," he explained. "Because logically thinking, if you can’t enter at a land port of entry, why should you be able to enter at an airport?"
Tarlier said she felt safe flying: there were only eight people on her flight, and everyone was seated at least two rows apart.
"The flight attendants had masks on the whole time," she described. "They came around collected your garbage and, you know, went through the standard safety protocols. They gave you some sanitation wipes and that was it."
Tarlier works as a marketing co-ordinator but was temporarily laid off because of the pandemic.
"I was just sitting in Canada so I may as well just sit in Bellingham," she told CTV News. She hopes to keep working at her job when life gets back to normal but for now, the newlyweds plan to continue quarantining. Only this time, they’ll be together.
"I’m basically going to be quarantining anyway. We are going to be hanging out at his house, and I think the biggest adventure might be the grocery store," she said. Her return flight is booked for May 26, but Tarlier said she may extend her stay.
As for whether this falls into the "essential travel" category and whether travelling to be with spouses could be putting the public at risk, Tarlier said, "I would consider being married and direct family essential." She added that seeing her husband is worth the 14-day quarantine when she returns to Canada.