Social media buzzing about Americans spotted in the Okanagan

Concerns about U.S. guests

There has been plenty of chatter on social media forums recently about people spotting Americans in the Okanagan.

One thread showed a vehicle from Texas in the North Okanagan and an SUV with Texas plates was spotted at a Vernon coffee house on Canada Day. There were also pictures of cars with American license plates being spotted in the Kelowna area.

The post touched off a lengthy, and at times heated, debate about Americans coming to Canada while the border is closed to non-essential travel because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The original social media post suggested people contact authorities when they spot an American vehicle in Canada, but some questioned how the caller would know where the American vehicle was heading and what their purpose in Canada was.

During Thursday's COVID-19 press conference, Dr. Bonnie Henry addressed what she called the "Alaska loophole," that has allowed some American travellers entry into Canada if they're heading directly to Alaska.

"From talking with the Canadian Border Services Agency and others, the majority of people with U.S. licence plates who are in B.C. are Canadians who have returned home over the last few months," Dr. Henry said. 

"We have seen individual reports of people who are using that 'Alaska loophole,' if you will, but I understand as well that they are very small in number."

Recently some American visitors were fined for stopping near Banff, and on Thursday, B.C. Premier John Horgan addressed the issue, saying he's heard concerns from across B.C. that Americans have stopped in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island instead of heading straight to their destination in Alaska, putting residents at risk.

Anyone entering Canada from another country, including Canadian citizens, must self-quarantine for 14 days. The federal government extended that requirement until at least Aug. 31 Thursday. 

The Canadian Border Services Agency has a list of rules and regulations our southern cousins are asked to follow if they want to come to Canada. According to the CBSA website:

There are many factors that come into play when Canada Border Services Agency is determining if you are permitted to enter Canada. It is important to note that the final determination is made by a border services officer at the port of entry. They base their decision on the information presented to them at the time of entry into Canada.

In addition to the temporary entry restriction in place due to COVID-19, you must meet the entry requirements under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and provide appropriate travel and immigration documentation.

Travel to Canada for discretionary reasons (non-essential), such as for tourism, recreation or entertainment is currently prohibited. Unless exempted, if you do not have a non-discretionary (essential) reason to travel to Canada, a border services officer will deny you entry.

If you are displaying symptoms of COVID-19, you will not be permitted to enter Canada, regardless of your reason for travel.

For a full list of rules and regulations for Americans entering Canada, click here.

Anyone with information on suspicious cross-border activities is encouraged to call the CBSA Border Watch Line at 1-888-502-9060.

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