Banff National Park in Alberta is famous for its sweeping alpine views and the turquoise waters of Lake Louise. But a visit to Canada’s oldest national park is probably not worth a fine up to $570,000 ($750,000 Canadian dollars) and jail time.
That’s what one American tourist faces after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police say he breached quarantine to visit the area in late June. Canada’s U.S.-border closure has prevented nonessential American visitors from entering since March.
John Pennington, 40, of Kentucky was first cited and then arrested when police say he was twice found to be in violation of Canada’s provincial health orders after entering from Alaska, Cpl. Tammy Keibel told The Washington Post.
Pennington was staying at Banff’s Rimrock Resort Hotel, where staff reported his presence to the RCMP. Police initially issued him a ticket for about $900 and ordered him to stay in his hotel room until he left Canada the following day — but the next morning Pennington’s license plate was spotted at nearby Sulphur Mountain’s gondola.
At the mountain, Pennington was arrested for breaching Canada’s Quarantine Act, which can carry a fine up to $570,000 and up to six months in jail. He was released and escorted out of Canada and is scheduled to appear in court in Canmore, Alberta, in November.
“In Alberta, we’ve issued 21 public health tickets so far in 2020. Ten of the 21 were issued to Americans, and all of those 10 were issued in Banff National Park,” Keibel says. She notes that the park’s trails and other outdoor spaces have remained “quite busy” despite the coronavirus border closure and that Banff National Park has instituted an outdoor mask order.
Canada’s coronavirus travel restrictions state that Americans are permitted to cross the border into Canada if they’re driving straight through to the contiguous United States — a rule known as the Alaska loophole — but are not permitted to stop for tourist activities.
Americans en route to Alaska are now required to use the most direct route and display vehicle hang tags denoting when they’ll be exiting Canada at a designated border exit point, but Keibel says that rule was instituted later in the summer after Pennington’s June arrest.
The only other person the Alberta RCMP has issued a public health ticket to in 2020 was a Canadian citizen returning from abroad who broke quarantine requirements, Keibel says. The border closure preventing Americans from visiting Canada for tourism are in place at least until Sept. 21