A ranch owner in Kamloops, B.C., has been criticized by the province's solicitor general for refusing to accept a vaccinated international traveller.
The Equinisity Ranch in Kamloops, in the province's central Interior, is run by owner Liz Mitten Ryan. She told CBC News she catered almost exclusively to international travellers, including from England, Switzerland and Australia.
In a report in The Guardian, published Thursday, a prospective traveller called J.W. York said they had booked a $3,200 retreat (£2,000) with Ryan in May 2020, but the trip was put off due to lockdowns and other pandemic restrictions.
According to York, they were told recently they were not welcome at Equinisity anymore because they were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 — and they would not be receiving a refund due to ranch policy.
Ryan confirmed that the ranch had a "no vax" policy for patrons, even though international travellers have to be fully vaccinated to enter Canada. The Guardian article quoted her as saying that vaccines were a "bioweapon depopulation tool" that could transfer to animals.
The entire episode was called "outrageous" by B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth.
"I have asked my ministry, the consumer protection branch, to look into this," he told CBC News.
"This is just wrong. Like, you want to subscribe to a wack job conspiracy theory. That's your business. But you don't rip people off like this. It's unethical."
Refunds will happen, says owner's husband
In a statement, Kevin Ryan — Liz Ryan's husband — said the ranch would eventually send refunds to customers.
"For personal reasons for this summer, [Liz] has implemented a policy of non-vaccinated guests only," the statement read. "Not, I stress, realizing any regulations were being broken.
"Due to the current public interest in this situation, and the subsequent informed discussions, she now realizes that it is appropriate the deposit, in this case, needs to be returned to comply with said regulation."
Ryan told CBC News all deposits "of a similar status" would be returned by the end of the month.
On its website, Equinisity says it provides "a unique journey" for patrons to find "true healing" through meditation, horse riding and other activities. Ryan says his wife had been running the establishment for over 15 years.
Their pricing guide shows that individual patrons can expect to pay $2,800 for an eight-day retreat, while couples can expect to pay $2,400 each.
Before her husband's statement about refunds, Liz Ryan had suggested that any vaccinated traveller sell their booking. She also said her ranch had been shut down for two years, the longest such span of her career, due to border restrictions.
Farnworth told CBC News that Equinisity's stance against vaccinated travellers would give international travellers a bad impression of the province.
"It sends a terrible message in terms of tourism here in British Columbia and Canada," he said. "Because, let's face it, this person that took this trip is now going to tell their friend ... 'Why would you want to come here?'"
Farnworth said his staff would be investigating if the ranch had received any COVID relief funding, and that the ranch would not be eligible in any case, given the requirements placed on vaccinated travellers.
"I don't think it's particularly good business practice," he said.