The Canadian and U.S. government have agreed to keep the border between the two countries closed to non-essential travel for yet another month, extending the current measures through September 21, 2020.
The restrictions on travel between Canada and the United States is now stretching into another quarter just like we’ve seen with most other international crossings but this one hits especially hard given the close ties between the countries and that for a very long time you were even able to cross between Canada and the U.S. using a drivers license (abandoned after 9/11).
There have already been several decisions that severely impacted travel between Canada, Alaska and “the lower 48” especially when it came to cruise travel with British Columbia shutting down all their ports since spring, essentially killing the Alaska cruise season with huge economic consequences for both B.C. and the Alaska coast towns.
Now according to CTV News the border closure will yet again be extended for another month.
Canadian and U.S. officials have agreed to keep the border between the two countries closed to non-essential travel for another month. This comes as both countries are still working to stop the spread of COVID-19, and as tensions continue to flare between Canadians and prospective American visitors.
The current extension of the cross-border agreement expires on August 21, though as the spread of COVID-19 continues in both countries, the restrictions on recreational travel will remain in place until at least Sept. 21. The ban on discretionary travel was first introduced in March and has been extended each month since.
“We are extending the reciprocal restrictions at the Canada-US border for another 30 days, till Sept. 21, 2020. We will continue to do what’s necessary to keep our communities safe,” tweeted Public Safety Minister Bill Blair.
The agreement, as it stands, exempts the flow of trade and commerce, as well as temporary foreign workers and vital health-care workers such as nurses who live and work on opposite sides of the border. Tourists and cross-border visits remain prohibited.
This is the fifth renewal of the border restrictions since the coronavirus pandemic was declared.
At least a dozen Americans have been fined under the Quarantine Act, after trying what’s been coined the “Alaska loophole”: travellers telling border agents that they are passing through Canada in order to get to Alaska for an essential purpose such as working or returning home, but they end up vacationing in Alberta and British Columbia instead.
In response the federal government has rolled out new restrictions requiring foreigners entering Canada en route to Alaska to do so at one of five approved border crossings and prohibiting them from visiting any tourism sites or stopping to get food anywhere other than drive-thru restaurants along their way. These pass-through visitors are also being given a “hang tag” to attach to their vehicle’s rear-view mirror, to make them easily identifiable. The tag will include the date by which they must leave Canada.
It was indeed common to have U.S. citizens come up through Alberta or B.C. claiming to go up to Alaska and then just roaming around the province never intending to go to Alaska at all. Since there were never any checks going out of Canada back to the U.S. other than the U.S. border itself there was (and still is) very little to deter people with such a plan.
The notice has now been officially confirmed by a posting from the Deputy Prime Ministers office:
The Deputy Prime Minister, Chrystia Freeland, today announced that Canada and the United States have agreed to extend the temporary restriction of all non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border until September 21, 2020.
The Government of Canada’s top priority is the health and safety of Canadians. This continued agreement with our American partners will protect the health and safety of people on both sides of the border, while ensuring the flow of essential goods and services between our two countries.
One has to wonder how often this extension will be renewed in the future and if there will be an opening of the country to overseas visitors from countries again that are deemed somewhat “safe” by Canadian authorities.
Canada does have some rather generous exceptions in place that allows a flow of family members and employees to go into Canada. Canadians can also visit the U.S. but would have to isolate for 14 days upon return so the question is if that trip is worth the hassle.
The common sentiment among Canadians is that the border should remain closed due to the escalating situation concerning Covid-19 in the lower 48. Can’t say I’d blame them yet this salami tactic extension on a monthly basis isn’t really a solution either.
Canadians are already welcomed to the European Union and Schengen zone as of July (read more here) without quarantine requirements (up to each country – check the conditions). Let’s see how long it takes for Canada to reciprocate because so far there has been crickets for two months. Maybe the EU should withdraw the clearance again if there is nothing forthcoming.
Overall I believe we’ll have to live with this situation for quite some time and as of now there is no writing on the wall what the ultimate solution to all of this will be. Some believe it’s a vaccine, I’m not so sure about that.