How are out-of-province residents entering Nova Scotia without approval?

While police and provincial officials maintain they do not know how, there are residents from outside Nova Scotia coming into this province without permission.

In the past couple of weeks, there were two cases where New Brunswick residents were caught on Highway 104 near River Bourgeois.

On May 15 at around 6 p.m. Richmond County RCMP stopped a vehicle for speeding, then officers discovered that the 41-year-old female driver was from New Brunswick, and during her vacation, was travelling to visit family in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

Noting that it is “very difficult” to enter the province at its borders under false pretenses since there is an online application process, Nova Scotia RCMP Cpl. Chris Marshall said they determined the woman did not apply to enter Nova Scotia and was in the province without authorization. He told The Reporter that she must have entered the province at an unmanned border crossing or some other way that didn’t involve a checkpoint.

As a result, the woman was fined $2,422 under the Health Protection Act and was told to immediately return to New Brunswick, Marshall noted.

The RCMP notified the province after this incident, and it is now up to provincial officials to investigate how the woman was able to enter, Marshall stated.

To enter Nova Scotia under current public health restrictions, applicants have to register online with Safe Travel Nova Scotia, the RCMP said.

Tracy Barron, spokesperson for the Department of Environment and Climate Change, said those who meet the criteria for essential travel need to get approval via the Nova Scotia Safe Check-in form before crossing the border. Barron said permanent Nova Scotia residents will receive conditional approval but must still show proof of permanent residency at the border.

She said the province has increased its presence at the border, and with a presence in Tidnish, as well as the closure of the Mount Whatley Road, it is “getting more difficult for people to evade border liaison officials.”

Not long after the province made this declaration, a Moncton man was arrested in Richmond County on May 22 for dangerous driving and flight from police, as well as a motor vehicle theft in New Brunswick.

At 7:51 p.m., a member of Cape Breton RCMP Traffic Services noticed a vehicle travelling at a high speed in the Grand Lake Road area of Sydney. According to a press release issued by the RCMP, the police officer attempted to stop the vehicle, a New Brunswick plated blue Mazda CX5 reported stolen from the Moncton area on May 17, but the “suspect sped away without police in a position to safely follow.”

After this incident, the RCMP said “numerous reports” were made of this vehicle driving dangerously, and police again encountered the vehicle on Kings Road in the Portage area, and the vehicle sped away again.

Sgt. Andrew Joyce said they were able to figure out where the suspect was traveling based on reports to police from the public and “officer observations.”

As a result, Richmond County District RCMP successfully deployed a tire deflation device as the suspect was travelling along Highway 104.

At 9:06 p.m., the RCMP said they arrested the driver and lone occupant without incident, and located a hatchet between the driver and passenger seats.

Jordan Maxime Arsenault, 28, is facing: two counts of flight from police; two counts of dangerous driving; two counts of failure to comply with undertaking condition; two counts of failure to comply with probation order; possession of property obtained by crime; and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose.

Arsenault is also facing provincial charges under the Motor Vehicle Act, the Health Protection Act and the Emergency Measures Act, the RCMP said, noting that he is currently in custody.

Joyce told The Reporter that Arsenault’s entry into Nova Scotian will be “an avenue of consideration” for their investigation.

When asked about this, Barron said the suspect’s ability to evade law enforcement at the border is part of the police investigation.

This is largely a police investigation but the province does have a role to play in finding answers to the security lapses at the New Brunswick border since the Department of Environment and Climate Change is in charge of the border crossings.

It’s bad enough that people think they can visit relatives, but in the case of Arsenault, he crossed the border with a stolen car and despite the fact he was wanted in New Brunswick.

Surely this exposes glaring holes at the border, and begs the question of how many others crossed or entered Nova Scotia without permission since public health measures were enacted. Perhaps the most important question is and how long were these deficiencies apparent before provincial officials and law enforcement were forced to act due to recent events?

It’s hard to get answers to these important questions. When contacted to provide an explanation, the RCMP points to the province, and when the province is contacted, they point to the RCMP.

And while a small group apparently sneaks into this province, many others who work or live outside Nova Scotia are following the public health protocols, applying online, then waiting their turn to enter the province.

For the system to work, stricter penalties are not going to be enough of a deterrent, this is a time when enforcement has to improve by ensuring all points of entry into the province are more closely and consistently monitored.

This is not a long-term situation, but until COVID-19 numbers go down to a level that allow restrictions to be lifted, this is the best option that is in the best interests of public health and safety.