Kentucky man arrested for violating Alaska Loophole

Moraine Lake
Summer at Moraine Lake - BVN File Photo

A 40-year old Kentucky man who was travelling from Alaska to the continental United States has been charged with violating Canada’s Quarantine Act because he failed to follow COVID-19 public safety rules while in Banff twice in late June.

Since March 18th, 2020 non-essential travel between Canada and the United States has been prohibited due to the coronavirus pandemic, in any case Americans have been still allowed to come through Canada to get home to or from Alaska. In those cases, travelers are supposed to use the most direct route to Alaska or to the United States under the rules stated by the Canada Border Services Agency. In this sense, the option of travelling to or from Alaska to the United States, does not include driving from or through national parks, leisure sites and tourism locations in Canada.

Despite the non-essential travel prohibition and Canada’s Quarantine Act, some Bow Valley residents have started calling it the “Alaska loophole” after spotting American plates all around Banff and Canmore. Locals have been sharing their stories and some pictures of American plates on Bow Valley Network Facebook group and other websites. Residents and hospitality workers have seen license plates from as far away as Texas and New York.

By June 21, Banff RCMP had issued 7 tickets of $1,200 to Americans for stopping to see the sights in the park, outside of the townsite of Banff.

It was in this context when in late June, Banff RCMP received a call from the Rimrock Hotel staff saying that “they were concerned about an American guest they thought was breaching the quarantine,” Staff Sgt. Michael Buxton-Carr told CBC News.

Police came and ticketed 40 year-old Kentucky man, John Pennington, for breaching provincial health orders. He was given the option to pay a $1,200 ticket or appear in court and told to stay in his hotel until he left the following day. But John Pennington had different plans for the next day in Banff. Mr. John Pennington went up to Sulphur Mountain and when he was found by the police, he told them “he was looking for food”. According to CBC News, investigators determined that “Mr. Pennington had not left town as required on the morning of June 26 but had chosen to visit a popular tourist site”.

Mr. Pennington was arrested for breach of the federal Quarantine Act and was scheduled to appear in a Canmore court in November. He could be fined up to $750,000 or sentenced to six months in jail in case he is found to have violated a quarantine order.