Rebekah McDonald of Red Deer. (Screenshot by Advocate staff)

Rebekah McDonald of Red Deer. (Screenshot by Advocate staff)

Calls for more ‘transparency’ after returning Alberta traveller detained at airport

‘Heavy-handed’ response was unnecessary say local politicians

Premier Jason Kenney is calling for more federal openness after a Red Deer man was whisked away after landing at the Calgary airport by officials who considered his prior COVID test inadequate.

“We understand the need for quarantine requirements, but ask that federal agencies be more transparent,” Kenney tweeted Monday evening.

The premier was reacting to complains of returning travellers being detained in isolation while their families are left in the dark about what’s happening.

This scenario unfolded for a 20-year-old Red Deer man last weekend. His mother, Rebekah McDonald, posted a tearful video on Facebook and YouTube recounting the upsetting experience at Calgary airport.

McDonald said before she could fully greet her son, Ethan — whom she hadn’t seen for two years as he had been living in Arizona — he was loaded into a van by masked strangers, who refused to disclose to the family where they were taking him, or when his parents could talk to him.

McDonald said she was told: “‘We are taking him for an undisclosed amount of time to an undisclosed place, where he will be tested and we will decide when he’s released.’

“It seemed that nobody had any answers for me and nobody would clarify anything… That was really scary, and very confrontation.”

McDonald was also told authorities didn’t need consent to take Ethan into isolation. “I’m freaked out that this is totally legal,” she added.

The family later learned the COVID test her son had done in the U.S. wasn’t the correct one and he needed to be retested.

According to the Canadian government website, a molecular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is needed.

McDonald said she tried to comply with re-entry rules when booking Ethan’s test, but due to “human error,” her son got the wrong kind of testing in Arizona.

“We weren’t trying to be irresponsible in any manner… What we were met with was the most crazy, tyrannical experience. It was almost surreal, and complete unacceptable.”

While McDonald’s son is home now, having tested negative for the virus again, she remains angry — especially after hearing this has happened to other people.

“There are better ways to treat each other,” McDonald said. “People fought long and hard for our freedoms and this feels really wrong.”

At Monday’s Red Deer city council meeting, Coun. Vesna Higham expressed concern about what the family went through.

If a second COVID test was needed, the family would have understood if the reasons were explained in a respectful manner, said Higham.

She urged for better communications between federal authorities and returning travellers, saying there was no need to hide from the family where Ethan was being taken and for how long.

Related:

Canada suspends sun flights, insists on COVID tests, quarantine for air travellers

Trudeau announces suspended flights, mandatory 3-day hotel quarantine for travellers

Premier Kenney tweeted a similar sentiment, saying “People entering Canada have an obligation to inform themselves about and comply with testing and quarantine requirements. But federal agencies … could avoid a lot of anger and confusion if they were more transparent about where people will be staying, etc..”

Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan said in an opinion piece to the Advocate that the kind of treatment the Red Deer family experienced was “unaccountably heavy-handed” and suggested it encroaches on the freedoms Canadians are guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

(With files from Susan Zielinksi)

Coronavirusred deer city

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Rebekah McDonald, of Red Deer, is upset after her son was taken into isolation after his return to Canada at Calgary airport without adequate explanation to his family. (Screenshot by Advocate staff)

Rebekah McDonald, of Red Deer, is upset after her son was taken into isolation after his return to Canada at Calgary airport without adequate explanation to his family. (Screenshot by Advocate staff)

Just Posted

C.E. “Ned” Bentley owned a garage on Shaughnessy Avenue, now Lakeshore Drive in Summerland. Bentley later went on to serve on Summerland’s council and was recognized with the Good Citizen Award in 1939. (Summerland Museum photo)
Former Summerland reeve once ran garage

C.E. “Ned” Bentley was a prominent figure in Summerland’s past.

Interior Health reported 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5. (Black Press Files)
Interior Health reports 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5

Over 300,000 vaccine doses have been administered provincewide.

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen is offering home compost bins at reduced prices until March 25. (Contributed)
Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen offers compost bins at wholesale costs

Pricing offer at participating stores in place until March 25

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
36 new cases of COVID-19, one death in Interior Health

The number of active cases in the region is at 366

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

More than ever before, as pandemic conditions persist, the threat of data breaches and cyberattacks continues to grow, according to SFU professor Michael Parent. (Pixabay photo)
SFU expert unveils 5 ways the COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed cybersecurity

Recognizing these changes is the first in a series of steps to mitigate them once the pandemic ends, and before the next: Michael Parent

Kevin Haughton is the founder/technologist of Courtenay-based Clearflo Solutions. Scott Stanfield photo
Islander aims Clearflo clean drinking water system at Canada’s remote communities

Entrepreneur $300,000 mobile system can produce 50,000 litres of water in a day, via solar energy

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

The City of Vernon is looking for input into its Climate Action Plan. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Vernon taking steps towards climate action

Community engagement sought on city plan

Paramjit Bogarh, connected to the murder of his wife in Vernon 35 years ago, has been relerased on full parole, one year after he was sentenced to five years in prison for accessory after the fact. (Contributed)
Full parole for ex-Okanagan man who helped wife’s alleged killer escape

Paramjit Bogarh pleaded guilty to accessory to murder after helping brother flee Canada

Most Read