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Red Deer oil worker tells of harrowing ordeal trying to get back into Canada

“I’m not a bad person. I have no criminal record. I’m just a regular Canadian like anybody else,” said Richard Santin.

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Red Deer oil worker Richard Santin is no stranger to high-stress situations, yet he found himself in an ordeal like no other over the weekend.

Waiting on a layover in Toronto for a flight to Calgary, he was told by law enforcement and airport officials he needed to take a COVID-19 test and self-isolate for three days minimum at a government-approved facility.

Upon landing in Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, Santin told the Western Standard he was followed into the washroom by several police officers to take another PCR test.

But, that was only the start of the problem, said Santin, who had already taken a PCR test with a negative result in Bahrain.

Valid for 72 hours, he was told he needed to take another test by Air Canada.

Santin thought he had exemption status as a Canadian worker working abroad, but that was not honoured.

Jet-lagged from his trip home from Bahrain, where he spent two months working – including two days in self-isolation – Santin was determined to return home to his wife, Victoria, and their two children, aged five and seven.

“I want to make the right choice and get home. I should be at home right now with my kids, yet I found myself in this position where I was made to feel that I did something bad,” said Santin.

“It sucks that I’m not in Alberta with my family,” he said, attributing his calm demeanour during the harrowing experience to his desire to return home.

“I’m stuck in a situation where I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t.”

“Because Air Canada had mentioned, I needed to do a COVID test, and law enforcement was trying to get me into these government-approved hotels for three days or less until I got the results. 

“I just came from Bahrain in the Middle East, coming home from work. I wasn’t out catching rays and having a suntan at the beach.”

He was told at the testing area by public health officials if he didn’t take a domestic COVID-19 test, he would be subject to a fine of upwards of $3,000 if he refused to comply.

Santin agreed to another test but needed to contact his employers, family and use the public washroom close to the testing area before proceeding.

Then, several law enforcement officers followed him into the washroom before leaving the area shortly after.

“After a couple of hours of phone calls, airport personnel asked me if I had made a decision, after having used the washroom, and all of a sudden, police officers approached me and said I was being recorded. I said that’s a great idea. I will videotape you too. That’s when I turned on my camera, and then all of a sudden, they started to back off. It almost felt like it was a shield,” Santin said.

“I’m not a bad person. I have no criminal record. I’m just a regular Canadian like anybody else.”

Others who had gotten off the same flight weren’t subject to the same level of scrutiny and were allowed to leave the airport. 

Two other oilfield workers who worked in the Middle East region and who reside in Toronto did not self-isolate in a government-approved quarantine facility.

However, others were not so lucky either. An older woman, in a similar position as Santin, sat beside him, hyperventilating as she had an apparent panic attack.

From his conversations with her, she had told him she was a Toronto resident but was denied the option to self-isolate at home.

An officer also issued her a fine as she continued hyperventilating.

“It’s not only happening to me,” he said. 

“For those individuals with anxiety or other health-related concerns, this was nothing short of a traumatic experience for them.”

During an interview with the Western Standard, he was twice confronted by law enforcement and airport personnel.

Santin was accused of “playing games” by one of the individuals who confronted him.

Taken aback by the accusation, he remained calm and assured them he was not playing games.

He told them he was on the phone with loved ones and his employer, who expressed grave concerns over the ordeal.

Another rudely pointed out he left his luggage unattended before he had to use the washroom, as there were no toiletry facilities in the COVID-19 testing area.

“It’s an international rule not to leave your luggage unattended. You cannot trust anybody. We almost had to cease it,” the official said.

Santin apologized as he looked for his water bottle.

They repeatedly asked if he would take the COVID-19 test, to which he said yes.

“I followed all the necessary precautions on a previous work tour, where I self-isolated at home for 14 days. And yet the officials are treating me as if I committed some big crime, which is ridiculous,” Santin said.

He was taken aback by the lack of compassion and patience when asked valid questions regarding the self-isolation procedure. 

“I have the utmost respect for the health and safety of all people, but I was made to feel otherwise,” he said.

“Is this the direction our country wants to head down? Is this how we want to be treated as Canadians?”

Five minutes later, he approached airport personnel and law enforcement, stating: “Just so you guys know, I’m okay with doing that test. So don’t get that wrong.”

In response, they had informed him he was being recorded.

When he asked about the hotel he needed to book, they grew impatient when he admitted to not knowing which hotel was government-approved.

He was then told he would be fined if he did not book a government-approved hotel room. This was reiterated by a Public Health official named Brian told him he needed to book a room.

“You either need to book a hotel room now, or we will take down your information and issue you a fine,” he said.

One of the police officers, who became increasingly agitated, said Santin was free to go and did not need to take the PCR test, while issuing him a fine.

However, the public health official told Santin the test was mandatory.

The officer then stormed off, flustered by the ordeal.

After taking the PCR test, he was met with further barriers as several airport personnel requested he have a blue sticker added to his passport to indicate he was awaiting his test results.

After considerable back-and-forth, Santin was given a clear sticker and able to leave after spending over five hours in the airport.

Shortly after he flagged down a cab to go to a nearby hotel – but decided to go to a government-approved one.

He said the cab driver was considerate and helped him find accommodations on the outskirts of town.

The cab driver gave Santin a word of support, stating the government has taken its COVID-19 response too far by creating a culture of fear, distrust, and paranoia.

On Sunday, Santin said he was in better spirits but remained adamant on his desire to see his family soon.

On his experience at Pearson International Airport, Santin said the officials who confronted him “really need to learn some people skills.”

“That was a bad experience. No one should ever go through that type of treatment.”

He hopes his experience will garner more conversations on the country’s COVID-19 response, with the desire to make Canada a better place to live moving forward.

As of Monday, he received a negative test result and is focused on booking a flight to Calgary, where he will drive home to self-isolate further from the comfort of his home.

Dhaliwal is a Western Standard reporter based in Edmonton

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Moe calls Unified Grassroots founder

Following the Western Standard article on Ness’ appeal for an audience with the Saskatchewan premier, he gave her a call and talked for more than an hour.

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By LEE HARDING

Unified Grassroots founder Nadine Ness finally got a phone call from Premier Scott Moe, one week and 20,000 YouTube viewers after her online request` to talk.

In a subsequent video posted December 4 entitled simply A Message From Nadine Ness, President of Unified Grassroots, the retired RCMP officer said the premier called her the evening of December 3.

“I’m gonna give credit where it’s due. He did in fact call me last night and we spoke for quite a long period of time. I’m surprised he didn’t brush me off, to be honest. It was a good, productive talk. And I foresee there being more in the future,” Ness said in the video.

Ness said she would reveal more of the content of their conversation in a subsequent Unified Grassroots Facebook post, but told Western Standard the conversation was more than an hour.

“I suspected a lot of people in Saskatchewan felt the way I felt and felt the way a lot of people in our organization feel. And I have to admit, seeing the response of that video kind of confirm my suspicions, that we’re not alone, that the people of Saskatchewan have become really concerned with the direction this province is going with the Christmas holidays approaching,” Ness said in the video.

Ness read some mainstream media headlines where articles recommended households have their own vaccine mandates and gave suggestions for how people could tell their unvaccinated family members they weren’t welcome.

“There’s this big push that maybe you shouldn’t be inviting some of your family members over for Christmas, or maybe you should be telling them they’re unwelcome. I find that really concerning. Is this really we’re where we are right now? A year ago would you have thought that you’d be thinking and feeling the way you’re thinking and feeling right now?” Ness asked.

“It makes me wonder who has taught us to think and feel this way? I can’t help to think but think that mainstream media and news organization and Premier more I’m not not gonna let you off the hook with this one, but you play a big part in this as well.”

The Christmas season was a good time to come together, not split apart, Ness said.

“I highly encourage if you have alienated anyone from your family, maybe it’s a time to call and make amends and say I’m sorry. If we don’t do something now, we’re going to look at ourselves in the mirror a year from now and not recognize who we’ve become.”

Ness, who lives near Langham, Saskatchewan, said Unified Grassroots was hosting a “hamper food / winer clothes drive, along with some Christmas music” at an as yet undecided location on December 12.

“See, that’s the Saskatchewan that I know. The Saskatchewan that I know is the one that raises the most for Telemiracle. It’s the one when a farmer is sick, the entire community comes together and combines his field; the one where we’re if someone’s having a hard time in their family, you’ll get some meals sent to your home. People will bring you food,” said the former New Brunswick native.

“And that’s the Saskatchewan that I fell in love with and decided… to make my home. I really don’t want us to become something we’re going to regret…

“It’s time we recognize that there’s a lot of hurt going on. What if we changed our focus instead of COVID, if we changed it to loving one another or caring for one another? Maybe Maybe Saskatchewan would be a better place and start going in the right direction.”

Harding is a Western Standard contributor based in Saskatchewan

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Bernier given vote of confidence by PPC members

Bernier received the support of 95.6% of members.

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The leadership of Maxime Bernier in the People’s Party of Canada has been given an overwhelming show of support by members.

Party Executive Director, Daniel Tyrie, announced Saturday that with 15,454 votes cast and a voter participation rate of 57.5%, Bernier received the support of 95.6% of members, who had to answer Yes or No to the following question: Do you support Maxime Bernier remaining as Leader of the People’s Party of Canada? 

“I am extremely proud to know I have the support of the vast majority of our members. I believe this vote signals a strong unity within our party around the principles and policies that I have been defending since its founding,” said Bernier.

“We have grown so much over the last three years, but we’re just getting started. I have big plans for the PPC to prepare us for the 45th General Election and I am excited to get to work with this newfound mandate!” 

The leadership review was conducted online in partnership with third-party firm, SimplyVoting. The vote took place between November 12th and December 3rd. All PPC members with active membership by September 20th, 2021 (the date of the 44th General Election) were allowed to vote. Official results from SimplyVoting are available on their website at https://ppc.simplyvoting.com/index.php?mode=results&election=155777&language=en

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Sask Polytech ditches vax policy but burdens unvaxxed with testing costs

The Justice Centre is unsatisfied with the response of Sask Polytech and reiterated its intention to pursue legal action against the institution and against the University of Saskatchewan over its requirement for staff and students to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

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By LEE HARDING

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is unsatisfied with the decision of Saskatchewan Polytech to reverse its vaccination requirement for staff and students because the institute does not recognize natural immunity and imposes testing costs on the unvaccinated.

On November 19, the Justice Centre sent Sask Polytech and the University of Saskatchewan letters demanding they reverse their requirement that all staff and students be vaccinated by January 1, 2022. 

On December 1, Sask Polytech reversed its “vaccinated only” policy but now requires unvaccinated staff and students to comply with testing three times a week at their own expense. In a press release, the Justice Centre called this “unacceptable.”

“Such testing requirements for students are even greater than the Saskatchewan government’s requirements for employees of its ministries. Sask Poly has also failed to recognize the compelling scientific evidence of natural immunity for those who have already recovered from Covid-19 and have proof of antibodies,” reads a JCCF press release on Saturday.

“Testing costs, which could exceed $200 per week, mean that only the wealthy and privileged can bear the burden,” stated Andre Memauri, the Justice Centre’s Saskatoon-based lawyer.

“Sask Poly, which has chosen to impose discriminatory testing requirements for staff and students, has the ability to acquire these tests at wholesale cost.”

The Justice Centre said it would commence legal proceedings against Sask Poly in the Court of Queen’s Bench unless Sask Poly immediately absorbs the testing costs and recognizes natural immunity. 

On October 28, the U of S and Sask Polytech announced mandatory vaccinations for all students, staff and faculty, removing the alternative of twice weekly testing which had been in place since the start of the school year. The Justice Centre will also commence legal action against the U of S for refusing unvaccinated students. 

On November 26, Global News reported a 19-year-old student was hospitalized briefly with breathing problems after receiving the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. The student’s mother, Michelle Marciniuk, publicly called for the university to reconsider its policy.

The U of S’ policy includes exemptions on medical and religious grounds in accordance with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code. But according to the Justice Centre, the university usually rejects exemption requests or does not respond to them for several weeks. Besides this, the university has made itself the arbiter of faith considerations for religious exemptions. Medical exemptions have become a difficult document for patients to receive in Canada, due to regulatory pressure on physicians not to provide them based on their medical judgement except in very rare circumstances.

The U of S crowns itself for academic freedom, diversity, equality, human dignity and a healthy work and learning environment, yet it has harshly terminated faculty for speaking on the hallmark principle of informed consent for Covid-19 vaccination of children,” stated Andre Memauri, a U of S alum. 

“Now, the U of S seeks to exclude and villainize those who decide for various reasons not to be vaccinated…Without question, our community has been through a great deal of difficulty and it requires these institutions to lead as vessels of science not ideology…The Justice Centre demands both schools follow the science and adopt policies that bring students together in the most safe and lawful manner.”

The letters sent to both schools from the Justice Centre on November 19 warned that the schools are seeking to deprive students from education on the basis of vaccination status, contrary to Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Sections 2(a), 7, and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Harding is a Western Standard contributor based in Saskatchewan

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