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Kentucky man faces $569,000 fine for allegedly violating Canada's COVID-19 rules twice

Despite being told to stay in his hotel until leaving the next day, the man was found violating the country's Coronavirus regulations again the following afternoon.

Kentucky man faces $569,000 fine for allegedly violating Canada's COVID-19 rules twice
Representative Cover Image Source: The Bluewater Bridge spanning the St. Clair River connects Sarnia Ontario, Canada, to Port Huron Michigan, USA. (Mark Spowart/Getty Images)

A Kentucky man accused of breaking Canada's coronavirus rules twice in June now faces a $569,000 fine, six months in prison, or both. Speaking to NPR, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Cpl. Tammy Keibel revealed that John Pennington of Walton, Kentucky, was initially fined $910 on June 25 after an employee at a Banff hotel he was staying at suspected that he was violating Alberta's COVID-19 regulations. Despite being told to stay in his hotel until leaving the next day, Pennington was found violating the rules again the following afternoon when police spotted his car at a local tourist attraction.



The 40-year-old was subsequently arrested and charged with violating Canada's Quarantine Act and could be fined up to $750,000 Canadian or sentenced to six months in jail if found guilty. Pennington's presence in Canada first raised eyebrows when a staff member at the Rimrock Hotel — where he was staying — reported to police that he may be violating the quarantine order. "Staff at the hotel were concerned about an American guest they thought was breaching the quarantine," Banff Royal Canadian Mounted Police Staff Sgt. Michael Buxton-Carr told CBC News. "He had entered Canada from Alaska a couple of days previously. He was required to travel a direct route on his way to the lower 48 states."



Although Canada closed its border to Americans on March 21 in an attempt to slow the spread of the novel Coronavirus, Americans can still enter the country to get home to or from Alaska. However, they're required to take the most direct route through Canada to get to Alaska as directed by the Canada Border Services Agency. Such travelers are also prohibited from driving through national parks, leisure sites, and tourism locations and must undergo quarantine if they stay in a hotel as well as display a hang tag in their vehicle with a mandatory departure date.



Some Banff residents, however, have named the rule the "Alaska loophole" after spotting American plates around the Alberta tourism hotspot — one of which belonged to Pennington. When he was first caught violating the Quarantine Act, Pennington was given the option to pay a $1,200 Canadian ticket or appear in court and instructed to stay in his hotel until he left the following day. "Unfortunately, we were alerted the following afternoon to a vehicle with Ohio license plates at the gondola to Sulphur Mountain," revealed Buxton-Carr.



"Investigators determined Mr. Pennington had not left town as required on the morning of June 26 but had chosen to visit a popular tourist site," he added. Pennington told police he was looking for food, but authorities refute that food was available at his hotel. "There are amenities available for essential needs, food and lodging, at the hotel. There was no legitimate reason to go up to Sulphur Mountain," Buxton-Carr said. Pennington — who is so far the only arrest Canadian police have made under the federal quarantine act — is scheduled to appear in court in November.



Buxton-Carr explained that similar incidents where ticketing and charges had to be employed instead of educational efforts have been quite rare. "The vast majority of Americans and vehicles with American license plates are people who are here for legitimate reasons. This is the only arrest we have made under the Quarantine Act and the Banff RCMP detachment has only issued one ticket so far," he said. "The vast majority of offenses are at the minor end of the scale." Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland urged Americans to avoid nonessential travel to the country amid the pandemic. "Now is not the time to visit. Hopefully, we will be back to normal at some point soon," she said. "These measures are in place for a reason. They are to protect us, and they are to protect our neighbors."

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