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Kentucky man to appear in Canmore court after breaching quarantine

John Pennington, 40, was charged twice in Banff for contravening an order of a medical health officer, two days in a row and is expected to appear in Canmore Provincial Court this November

BANFF – A Kentucky man who has been dubbed the ‘Alaskan Romeo’ did not get so lucky when he was hit with two tickets for breaching quarantine in the townsite of Banff earlier this summer.

John Pennington, who was 39-years-old at the time, was first issued a violation ticket on June 25, after Banff RCMP responded to reports of a man from the United States who was staying at the Rimrock Hotel, and in apparent violation of quarantine regulations.

Banff RCMP officials said upon investigation it was revealed Pennington, who was traveling from Alaska, was told to travel by direct route from Alaska to the Lower 48 states.

“Pennington chose to divert from the direct route and came to Banff, accompanied by a woman from Calgary. Pennington was issued a violation ticket for contravening an order of a medical officer of health,” Staff Sgt. Michael Buxton-Carr explained to the Outlook, noting the fine has a voluntary payment option of $1,200.

“Pennington was instructed to remain at the hotel for the remainder of the evening and to resume direct travel to the US once he was rested.”

Then the very next day, Banff RCMP received a report of a vehicle with Ohio licence plates parked at the Banff Gondola parking lot.

Officers again located Pennington and determined he travelled by the gondola to the summit of Sulphur Mountain.

“Mr. Pennington claimed that he had needed to use the gondola to locate food, but the hotel was able to provide food using room service and there were many drive-through food service options once Mr. Pennington resumed his travels. The investigator arrested Mr. Pennington for violating the federal Quarantine Act and, following consultation with a quarantine officer, released him upon notice to appear in court,” Buxton-Carr said.

Officers made sure the 39-year-old left Banff National Park and resumed his travel, RCMP said.

Earlier this summer, Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) officials said the government of Canada has implemented travel restrictions for all modes of transportation to all optional or discretionary travel at the Canadian-U.S. border since March 21. Government officials have now granted six extensions to the closure with the borders to remain closed until Sept. 21.

Officials said healthy, non-symptomatic foreign nationals travelling through Canada for non-discretionary purposes, such as returning home to Alaska, are allowed to travel through Canada.

"Upon arrival at the port of entry, a traveller seeking to transit through Canada to Alaska will be required to substantiate their purpose for going to Alaska. Only in circumstances where the traveller is considered to be transiting through to Alaska for a non-discretionary purpose will be admitted to Canada," CBSA spokesperson Louis-Carl Brissette Lesage said in an emailed statement at the time.

"Should an officer have any doubts with regards to the traveller’s intended purpose, the traveller will be required to prove/substantiate their purpose of travel."

The CBSA said once a traveller is admitted to travel through Canada, they are not allowed to make any unnecessary stops and are instructed to avoid contact with others while in transit.

Since the border closure, Alberta RCMP confirmed officers handed out more than $8,000 in fines in mid-June after seven individuals were charged under the Public Health Act with failing to comply with Chief Medical Officer of Health’s orders, after being found doing discretionary activities such as tourists activities and hiking in Banff National Park.

The seven were fined in and around the Lake Louise area after RCMP investigated reports of out-of-province licence plates.

At the end of July, the CBSA announced travellers heading to Alaska through Canada would be required to hang a tag in their rearview mirror and were told to avoid visiting national parks and tourism activities as of Aug. 1.

Entry into Canada is now only available to those travelling to Alaska at five ports of entry – Abbotsford-Huntingdon, Osoyoos and Kingsgate in B.C.; Coutts in Alberta; and North Portal in Saskatchewan. 

At the ports of entry, travellers must prove to Border Service Officers they meet the requirements for entry into Canada. That may include providing documentation that demonstrates the purpose of travel. 

According to a CBSA press release, American travellers will be allowed a reasonable period of time to complete the trip north; will be limited to travelling by only the most direct route while avoiding national parks, leisure sites and tourism activities; and will be required to confirm their exit from Canada. 

Failure to comply with the border restrictions is an offence under the Quarantine Act and comes with a fine of up to $750,000 and/or six months in jail. If a traveller causes a risk of imminent death or serious bodily harm while willfully or recklessly contravening the act, they could be liable for up to $1 million in fines and or imprisonment for three years. 

Pennington is expected to appear in Canmore Provincial Court in November.

– with files from Tanya Foubert 


Jenna Dulewich,

Follow me on Twitter @JennaDulewich

Jenna Dulewich

About the Author: Jenna Dulewich

Jenna Dulewich is a national and provincial award-winning multi-media journalist. Joining the Rocky Mountain Outlook in 2019, she covers Stoney Nakoda, MD of Bighorn, Canmore and court.
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