Can You Be Charged For Lying to Get a COVID Vaccine?

February 15, 2021

The Ontario provincial government’s vaccine rollout has been shaky at best. Critics blame the provincial government for the lack of a clear plan and thousands of vaccines going unaccounted for. The province criticizes the federal government for the lack of vaccines. 

The public is tired and frustrated with lockdowns and desperately wants the vaccine to protect vulnerable loved ones and get back to some sense of normal. 

To make matters worse, there are reports of well-connected and wealthy individuals jumping the cue to get the vaccine before those on the priority list. So, what are the penalties for jumping the line for COVID-19 vaccines or breaking quarantine, and can you be charged? 

In late January of 2021, CEO of The Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, Rod Baker and his wife, Ekaterina Baker from Vancouver, flew to the Yukon. They arrived in Whitehorse and chartered a plane to travel to the small community of Beaver Creek. There the couple received the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a mobile clinic after claiming to be employees at a local motel. 

The vaccines are designated for Yukon’s rural communities who have priority because the isolated community is more vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19 and lacks the resources to deal with an outbreak. Beaver Creek is a community of about 100 people and is located approximately 450km northwest of Whitehorse. It is also home to the White River First Nation. 

What are the rules for vaccines? 

Canada currently has a three-phase vaccine plan. Phase 1 includes vaccines for vulnerable populations, including those at higher risk of severe outcomes of COVID-19 and those most likely to transmit to those at higher risk for severe illness or death. 

Phase 1 of the vaccine rollout includes:

  • Residents and staff of shared living settings who provide care for seniors
  • Adults 70 years of age and older beginning with adults 80 years of age and older
  • Frontline health care workers who have direct contact with patients, including:
    • personal support workers
    • those who work in health care settings
  • Adults in Indigenous communities

As of Feb 2021, About 200 million doses of the COVID vaccine have been administered worldwide, mostly to health care workers and older individuals in nursing homes.

What are the consequences of lying to get a vaccine and breaking quarantine rules?

The Vancouver couple was charged under the Yukon’s Civil Emergency Measures Act (CEMA) for breaking isolation requirements and not fulfilling their quarantine period of 14 days after entering the region. They were also charged with lying to officials on their official documents. 

The maximum penalty for a CEMA violation is a $500 fine plus a $75 surcharge per count, or six months in jail. The Couple must pay the total fines of $2300 within 30 days or request a trial to fight the charges. Locals say that these fines are meaningless for wealthy individuals like Rod Baker, who earned over $10 million in his position at the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation in 2019. 

Most quarantine charges fall under the Quarantine Act, where both Canadians and foreigners entering Canada must complete a mandatory quarantine for 14 days unless they have an exemption. Penalties for breaking quarantine range from up to six months in jail and fines of up to $750,000. 

Is it possible to fight either of these charges?

Those charged through the quarantine act will need to pay the fines or appear in court to fight the charges against them.  Depending on the charges, if an individual is found guilty of an offence on summary conviction, they must pay a fine of up to $750,000 in some cases, a jail term of not more than six months, or both. 

If you face quarantine charges or charges related to violating COVID-19 restrictions, you need an experienced lawyer by your side. William Jaksa has over a decade of experience as a criminal defence lawyer in Toronto. He can help you understand the charges and explain your options. Contact William Jaksa today for a consultation.

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