A completely vaccinated Barrie couple in their 80s is sitting in isolation after returning home from missionary work and now trying to figure out what to do with more than $12,000 in travel-related fines under COVID-19 health regulations.
The Perrys, 87-year-old Glen and 80-year-old Thelma, arrived at Toronto's Pearson International Airport on July 4 at 8:20 p.m., having returned from missionary work in Jamaica.
They arrived home just a couple hours before the rules around government-ordered hotel stays for travelling Canadians was set to expire.
The pair, who earn a combined annual salary of $12,000 for their missionary work, were each issued a ticket for $6,255 — for a total of $12,510.
“We did not know that we were supposed to go to a hotel because we were set to get back about 10:30 p.m. and would have been leaving after 12 a.m.,” Thelma told BarrieToday. “They said if you’re getting a hotel, go to this line and if you’re not, go to the other line. We went to the line for no hotel.”
The federal government ended its mandatory quarantine for fully vaccinated Canadians returning from abroad on July 5. Prior to that, Canadians would have to stay at a government-approved hotel for three days and quarantine for two weeks.
The Perrys are fully vaccinated and had a valid negative COVID test done before they touched down in Toronto.
They did not book a hotel to quarantine, thinking they would be OK time-wise, with the changes taking effect at 12:01 a.m.
Their tickets were issued at 9:55 p.m., just two hours and six minutes before the rules changed.
"The man wrote our tickets and wouldn’t take my explanation,” said Thelma, even though the couple had spent all the required money on testing and a COVID-tracing app.
“I asked the man, 'Why did we spend all that money on COVID tests and the tracing app?', which was $80 U.S. dollars alone,” she added. “He told me it's the rules and he gets paid to do a job. I said to myself that this cannot be right.”
The Perrys have been Canadian citizens for more than 50 years and often go to Jamaica to do missionary work on the island.
“We work with the street people, feeding the homeless and we work with a church there,” Thelma said.
The couple, who are isolating at home in south-end Barrie, contacted Barrie-Innisfil MP John Brassard, who told BarrieToday he believes what happened to the Perrys "is absurd.” He is looking into the matter and hopes to have the penalty overturned.
“They had done everything right to re-enter the country," said Brassard. "It's unbelievable that whoever issued the ticket to this elderly couple could not have held off or used some sort of discretion for a couple of hours, given the fact the rules were changing at 12:01 am, just two hours and six minutes after the tickets and fines were issued."
The local MP says he has reached out to federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair, "asking for some compassion and reasonableness to be applied in this circumstance and to have the charges and fines dropped using whatever means possible," Brassard said.
Brassard says he has yet to hear from either of the minister's offices and will be following up on Monday.
The Perrys' daughter, Joan Trensch, says she was shocked to hear that her parents are being asked to pay more than they make a year for a rule that was about to expire.
“I’ve got three choices on the ticket, with the first one being to plead guilty. The second is an early resolution, and the last is to go to trial,” Trensch told BarrieToday. “I am thinking of going to trial and I have 30 days to make my decision.”
Thelma says she's still in awe that something couldn’t have been arranged at the airport to help them out.
“I even asked if we could sit somewhere for two hours, but the man told me 'no,' because he had to keep everything moving,” she said. “It's just so shocking to me.”