A Canadian man who lives in Blaine, Wash., and commutes to South Surrey for work, bringing with him his home-schooled children, is asking for clarity on border quarantine exemptions after being told his kids would have to isolate for 14 days unless they attend a Canadian school.
Dean Berkeley, who has been deemed an essential worker, routinely makes the trip north with his children. His kids, aged 10, 14, and 18, are home-schooled and have been doing their homework in Berkeley’s South Surrey office while he works.
Berkeley said since March he’s been crossing the border with his children without issue. However, last Friday, he was sent to secondary inspection, where an employee with the Public Health Agency of Canada told him that if he were to cross with his children, his kids would have to quarantine for 14 days.
Further, Berkeley said, the PHAC employee told him that his children would only be exempt from mandatory quarantine if they enrolled in a South Surrey or White Rock public school.
“That doesn’t make any damn sense to me,” Berkeley said, adding that he is immunocompromised. “Then they tell me that I can take my children to public school and they wouldn’t have to quarantine? Like, where the hell does that come from?”
Berkeley said putting his kids in public school would defeat the purpose of home-schooling his children, and would put his family at greater risk of contracting COVID-19.
He said he asked the PHAC employee to show him, in writing, the rule that says he cannot bring his juvenile children into his office to work, in seclusion, on their homework. The employee did not provide the related document, he said.
“She couldn’t provide me in writing that I couldn’t do this, so guess what, it doesn’t exist,” Berkeley said, adding that he ultimately crossed the border with his children on Friday and returned to the U.S. after his shift.
“If they want to call the RCMP and visit me in my office, I welcome it. Nobody showed up. I went on with my day and moved on.”
Berkeley said he contacted South Surrey-White Rock MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay about his situation.
Findlay told PAN that she looked into the issue and reached out to the Public Health Agency of Canada for clarity.
PHAC provided Findlay and her team the details on group exemptions from quarantine.
“Basically, there’s no mention of children for somebody, like himself, who I understand is an essential worker and is crossing back and forth every day,” Findlay said. “I think, frankly, his unique situation was simply not contemplated in the legislation. The kids don’t come within any of their exemption definitions.”
Findlay said the challenge with making all-encompassing regulations is that some niche situations are not addressed.
“It seems there are always unique circumstances, naturally, that a particular family or a particular person doesn’t fit within. And the rules really aren’t set up for the exemptions, they’re set up for the majority,” Findlay said.
Findlay said her next step will be raising the issue with the minister in charge of the file.
“The only thing we can do is try and plead his unique specific case to the minister who might be willing to give some sort of ministerial exemption. I’m not at all sure of that. That’s our only recourse because the kids don’t come within their definitions.”
Contacted Monday, the PHAC has not yet responded to a request for comment.