Toronto lawyer Lois Winstock was fully vaccinated and had a negative COVID test when she visited her daughter in Charlotte, N.C. a week ago.

The same was true for her lawyer husband, Ian Kirby.

In other words, they were considered exempted international travellers not subject to a hotel or a 14-day at-home quarantine according to the revised Aug. 9 federal edict for Canadian travellers.

But after returning from the trip, they were harassed with letters from both the federal and provincial governments advising them they need to quarantine for 14 days.

The threatening form letters to her husband have stopped but Winstock continued to get them all week.

The Sept. 3 missive from the government of Canada demands that she quarantine for 14 days and “complete symptom reporting” on a daily basis.

The day before the email was much more threatening, warning her to QUARANTINE (in capital letters) for a minimum of 14 days in accordance with the instructions given to her by a screening officer and to RESPOND (in capital letters) to calls or visits from screening or peace officers.

“Violating any instructions … could lead to a ticket of up to $5,000, six months in prison and fines of up to $750,000,” the federal email says.

If Winstock dares to break her mandatory quarantine, resulting in death of or bodily harm to another person, the email says she could face a fine of up to $1-million or imprisonment up to three years, or both. 

A companion e-mail from the Ontario health ministry also spells out what she must do during her 14-day quarantine, which includes avoiding contact with other people and having a “separate bedroom” from those who did not travel with her.

In an interview, Winstock called it nothing short of “harassment and intimidation” for no apparent reason.

“While announcing that the border is now open for Canadians who fulfill the requisite requirements, we are nevertheless being threatened with fines and jail by the Trudeau government if we do not do something we are supposedly not required to do,” she said.

She notes that fulfilling the government’s requirements included getting expedited PCR tests in Charlotte within 72 hours of their departure at US $190 each, in which both were negative.

Winstock says she and her husband staggered their trip over two weekends to ensure someone was home to care for their 15-year-old dachshund Heidi.

When her husband returned from the first weekend and before she even left, they both got emails from Health Canada telling them they needed to quarantine for 14 days or face huge fines.

When she returned to Pearson airport this past week, having filled out the ArriveCAN app while in Charlotte, she said she was waved through by a border security officer after reviewing her vaccination certificate and passport. She was told she was “fine.”

When the threatening emails started coming, both Winstock and Kirby called Health Canada more than once and was informed that there was a glitch in the system, that “a lot of Canadians are getting these emails” and to just “ignore” the calls and emails.

As of Saturday, the calls and emails continue. Winstock says this is having a “detrimental effect on her hypertension.”

I contacted Health Canada media relations, whose officials simply sent me the links to the new federal edicts on who needs to quarantine. They completely ignored my questions about the apparent glitches in the system.

Winstock says she’s a lawyer of 40 years who can easily navigate the government system. But what about travellers who aren’t able to, she asks.

“Why can’t the federal government even implement a tracking system that is based on actual policy guidelines and not continue to confuse, fully and frighten Canadians with misinformation and threats,” she asks.

She wonders how the heck Trudeau’s government can assist the provinces with instituting COVID vaccine passports if they can’t even get this right.

“He can’t get his own house in order,” she said. “This is a reflection of the total mismanagement of (Justin) Trudeau’s government of the entire pandemic.”

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