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Judge upholds Quarantine Act fine at Peace Arch Border Crossing

Nithya Geetapriya Ananda, aka Joanna Lasoka, appealed the fine
Statue of Lady Justice at B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has upheld a Surrey judge’s decision to fine a woman $1,500 under the Quarantine Act for failing to provide a quarantine plan or contact information through the ArriveCan mobile app in 2022 when she crossed back into Canada from the U.S. at the Peace Arch Border Crossing.

Nithya Geetapriya Ananda, aka Joanna Lasoka, appealed a Surrey provincial court judge’s decision to convict and sentence her under the Quarantine Act, related to a ticket and $5,750 fine issued to her on June 21, 2022 upon re-entering Canada from the United States,

This happened at the Peace Arch Border Crossing, when the federal government had measures in place aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19. Her trial was held on Feb. 21, 2023. The lower court judge reduced her fine to $1,500 on grounds of financial hardship.

Justice Matthew Taylor, in his Feb. 8 reasons for judgment delivered in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster, noted Ananda’s lawyer at appeal argued her rights were violated because the Bill of Rights protects “the right of the individual to equality before the law and the protection of the law,” and that this right was violated in her case because the Quarantine Act “differentiates between vaccinated and unvaccinated people, thereby creating inequality.”

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Taylor noted, however, that Ananda refused to provide evidence as to whether she is vaccinated or not, “with the result that she failed to demonstrate a status either way that could form a basis for her own claim of inequality.

“She also failed to demonstrate or explain how either vaccinated or unvaccinated persons are specifically given lesser equality and protection of the law under this legislative scheme,” Taylor added. “Equally importantly, the appellant did not adduce evidence that ArriveCan actually required a traveller to reveal vaccination status at all, thereby making her vaccination status seemingly irrelevant to the underlying statutory basis for her being issued the ticket and the fine.”

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Taylor cited case law indicating it is “quite clear” that when the Bill of Rights was enacted 1960 that the concept of “equality before the law” not only “did not but could not include the right of each individual to insist that no statute could be enacted which did not have application to everyone and in all areas of Canada.”

“The appellant failed completely to demonstrate how these legislative distinctions were inconsistent with either the rule of law or rights and freedoms as they existed at the time the Bill of Rights was enacted, and her argument is therefore fundamentally flawed.”

Taylor decided that, in his view, Ananda failed to provide the provincial court judge with “a compelling justification for departing from the cautious approach to Bill of Rights interpretation mandated by the Supreme Court of Canada.”

Taylor concluded there was no miscarriage of justice in her case and dismissed Ananda’s appeal.

About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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