The anti-vaxx ideology most of the world associates with the U.S. has moved beyond the border. In the first reported case of travelers using fake vaccination documents to enter Canada from the U.S., two airline passengers were caught submitting fake vaccination cards and COVID-19 test results, officials said Friday. In addition to "providing false information related to proof of vaccination credentials and pre-departure tests," the passengers also failed to stay at government-authorized accommodations, a requirement by Canada’s government for those entering the country.
While they have not been identified, the two passengers traveled to Toronto the week of July 18 and were confirmed Canadian citizens, Health Canada spokeswoman Maryse Durette told NBC News. Each was fined nearly $16,000 U.S. dollars for "non-compliance with entry requirements,” other information about them or how they obtained the fake documents has not been released.
The incident marks the first case of travelers using fake vaccination documents to enter Canada from the U.S., but it is likely not the last. Last month, Canadian officials announced that travelers with an exemption to enter the country can skip quarantine and post-arrival testing—if they upload proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test result to the ArriveCan app prior to travel. While the border remains open to others, those who don't meet vaccination requirements are required to quarantine for 14 days and undergo a COVID-19 test eight days after their arrival. Additionally, those who are traveling by air and are not fully vaccinated are also required to stay at a government-approved hotel for at least three days following their entry into Canada.
"The Government of Canada will continue to investigate incidents reported and will not hesitate to take enforcement action where it is warranted to protect the health of Canadians from the further spread of COVID-19 and its variants of concern," the Public Health Agency of Canada said in a statement.
The agency notes that violating COVID-19 and quarantine instructions when entering the country is an offense under Canada's Quarantine Act that could lead to a $5,000 fine for each day of non-compliance. More serious penalties can include six months of prison time.
The incident follows multiple warnings by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation of fraudulent vaccination cards being created from images circulating on social media. As some establishments require individuals to be vaccinated before entering or visiting, fake vaccine passports by anti-vaxxers and supporters of Donald Trump have increased.
According to NBC News, some sites and social media pages have even created specific instructions on how to create fake vaccination cards, including what thickness of card stock to use and sites from which to download templates.
Daily Kos reported in May that a California bar owner was arrested after officials found he sold fake COVID-19 vaccine cards for $20 per card. Experts called the incident the first criminal case of its kind. The bartender was arrested after he attempted to sell the fabricated cards to an undercover agent.
Lying about vaccination or testing status for traveling is not new. In an incident last year, a couple traveled from California back to their home state of Hawaii despite testing positive for COVID-19 during a pre-travel test. They were arrested shortly after landing and charged with second-degree reckless endangerment after boarding the flight despite being told not to, Daily Kos reported.
The pandemic is far from over, and fake vaccine cards and test results are bound to become more common as states, countries, and travel agencies require vaccination cards and COVID-19 test results to move through their borders. If you do plan on traveling, stay safe and encourage others to do so.