Charges against an Ontario man who refused to stay in a quarantine hotel in 2021—when the federal government required all air travellers arriving in Canada to do so—have been dropped, according to the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF).
In an April 19 news release, the Justice Centre said charges against Rachid Chadli were withdrawn by Crown prosecutors.
“The charges were withdrawn by the Crown Counsel after counsel for Mr. Chadli argued there was excessive delay, which breached Mr. Chadli’s right to be tried within a reasonable time, guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” the JCCF said.
In February 2021, the Liberal government mandated all air travellers landing in Canada to quarantine at designated hotels at their own expense for three nights while awaiting the results of their COVID-19 test done upon arrival in the country.
According to the Justice Centre, Chadli left Canada before those measures were implemented. Upon his return, he was told by border agents that he had to comply with the new rules.
“Mr. Chadli had no objection to the measures, but he could not afford the cost,” said the release. “He was having financial difficulties at the time related to personal health problems.”
The Trudeau government estimated at the time the cost of the hotel stay, including COVID-19 test, transportation, and meals, could be as much as $2,000.
The Justice Centre said border agents had advised Chadli to use credit cards or borrow money to pay for the expense.
“Mr. Chadli did not have a credit card, nor did he have family or acquaintances who could lend him that much money in such a short period of time,” said JCCF, adding that Chadli then proceeded to quarantine at home.
In May 2021, Chadli was issued an Offence Notice with a fine totalling $3,755. The Ontario resident “immediately completed the back of the ticket” and requested an Early Resolution meeting with Crown counsel, the release noted.
It took more than a year before Chadli received a notice last December with an Early Resolution date of Jan. 18, 2023.
The Justice Centre said Chadli and his lawyer Chris Fleury appeared on Jan. 18, but the matter was adjourned as “no Justice of the Peace was available.”
An Early Resolution meeting was eventually held on March 31. About two weeks later, Fleury wrote to the Crown again “expressing strong concerns regarding the delay to date and the likelihood of further delay in the future.”
“The Prosecutor responded the same day indicating that the charge would be withdrawn,” the release said.
Fleury said his client’s case reflects a “serious backlog” in the Canadian justice system.
“Court and Prosecutorial resources are limited. If Crown Counsel are not willing to prioritize serious criminal cases, and withdraw or resolve cases like Mr. Chadli’s, the problem will only get worse,” he said.
The lawyer stressed that the Offence Notice issued and the uncertainty that it created had weighed on Chadli for nearly two years.
“My client is quite pleased with the outcome and eager to move on with his life,” he said.