A Sarnia realtor has been hit with a hefty fine of failing to follow the border-crossing rules at the Blue Water Bridge that were put in place amid the peak of the pandemic.
Donna Ford, 52, was charged with failing to comply with an order under the Quarantine Act linked to an incident at the international crossing between Michigan and Point Edward, Ont., on Aug. 3, 2021. The province’s emergency response legislation is no longer in effect, but charges laid when it was in force are still being prosecuted.
A Sarnia courtroom heard Ford, who appeared to work for Re/Max in the border city, was sent a notice that her trial was set to start at 10 am on Jan. 11. But when her case was called two hours after it was supposed to have already started, no one respondent – either Ford or a representative – in person or over Zoom.
“Therefore there’ll be a finding of guilt and a conviction will register,” justice of the peace Debra Isaac said.
under the Provincial Offenses Act, a defendant is considered not to be disputing the charge when they fail to appear at their trial and they can be convicted. The court did not hear any details of the incident as the trial was not held.
Isaac noted the fine set for this conviction was $5,000, and no one was there to make a legal argument about a potential exceptional circumstance or if it was too oppressive.
“So I am obligated to impose the set fine of $5,000, plus costs, with 30 days to satisfy payment,” she said.
Ford did not respond to questions via email and social media about the conviction and any plans for an appeal. It’s also unclear if she’s still with Re/Max as multiple online links to her business profiles no longer working, although her LinkedIn page says she’s a licensed realtor as of January 2023.
Those aren’t the only charges Ford is facing under the same legislation. Four other outstanding charges linked to alleged incidents in early 2022 were adjourned from Jan. 12 to early April. She was not in court that day, either.
At least three other people have been recently hit with the same fine for failing to show up for their trials in Sarnia courtrooms on the same charges. A couple from the small Oxford County community of Otterville were fined $10,000 in total while a senior with ties to Southwestern Ontario was hit with a $5,000 fine.