Canadian border officials have found hundreds of fake COVID tests and vaccine certificates. Does anyone face consequences?

Border officials in both Canada and the US are catching hundreds of people they suspect of trying to cheat vaccine rules to cross the border, but far fewer are receiving fines.

Although Canadian border officials have reported hundreds of allegedly false and misused COVID-19 vaccine and test cards, the Public Health Agency of Canada has only issued 17 fines related to these reports so far.

In the US, a woman who was caught by US border guards with her sister’s passport and COVID-19 vaccine proof was able to enter the country anyway and has not been charged, according to Customs. and US Border Protection.

The woman, a US citizen who was crossing into the country from BC, was discovered last month by border agents using facial biometric technology in Blaine, Washington, using a passport that did not match her face. She later admitted to border officials that she was using her sister’s documents because she was not vaccinated.

West Pryde, a BC Filkow Law criminal defense attorney, said that using false or falsified documents while trying to cross the border is a felony with extreme penalties.

“There are a number of obligations at the border and you really have to tell the truth,” Pryde said. “It is quite foolish to try to cheat to enter a country and also commit a crime. There are many reasons not to do that. “

Those reasons include possible jail time, fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars and travel bans, he said.

It is also likely that border security will mark it and, in the case of using someone else’s documentation, will mark it as well.

“As soon as you try to lie to get into the country, they’ll put you on a list,” Pryde said.

In response to the incident, Canadian border officials said that people using false or fraudulent vaccine certification documents can expect to receive fines and even jail time if they use them to try to enter Canada. But, according to figures from the Canada Border Services Agency, only 17 of the more than 300 people who were allegedly caught doing this have been fined so far.

Although the woman was allowed to enter the United States and did not charge her for the misuse of her sister’s passport, the passport was seized, a representative from the United States border told the Star.

Under travel restrictions, US citizens are not required to have proof of vaccination to enter the United States when crossing land borders, but foreign citizens are. It is illegal to travel with someone else’s passport in both the US and Canada.

US officials have not released the woman’s name.

Details emerging around the incident, which took place on November 26, are shedding light on efforts to enforce vaccine requirements and travel restrictions during the third winter of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As of October 31, the Canadian border agency had intercepted 374 allegedly falsified or fraudulent COVID-19 test results, and 92 suspected counterfeit or fraudulent vaccine certification credentials. The border agency referred everyone involved to the Public Health Agency of Canada, which has the authority to enforce the Quarantine Act.

“A person who submits false information on vaccination status could be subject to a fine of up to $ 750,000 or six months in prison or both under the Quarantine Law, or prosecution under the Penal Code for falsification,” Louis- Carl Brissette Lesage, a spokesman for the border agency, wrote in an email.

“A person who causes a risk of imminent death or serious bodily harm to another person while intentionally or recklessly violating this law or the regulations could be liable for a fine of up to $ 1,000,000 or a prison term of up to three years, or both.”

So far, only 17 of the people suspected of using falsified tests or vaccine certifications have been fined by the Public Health Agency. A spokesperson for the agency said some cases are still under investigation, but it does not keep a tally of how many. The agency also does not count criminal charges filed by law enforcement services.

An auditor general report released Thursday said the Canadian Public Health Agency made some improvements in the enforcement of border control measures since the start of the pandemic, but highlighted gaps in the enforcement of quarantine and mandatory testing. in hotels by the agency.

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