Fully vaccinated U.S. citizens wasted little time Monday seizing their first chance in 17 months to venture into Canada, while lawmakers south of the border urged the White House to hurry up and follow Ottawa’s lead.
As of 12:01 a.m. Monday, American citizens and permanent residents were allowed back on Canadian soil, provided at least 14 days had elapsed since receiving a full course of a COVID-19 vaccine approved by Health Canada.
“I’m honestly just relieved to be here,” Kansas resident Tom Hanson said during a stopover at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, where he was en route to a long-delayed conference in Edmonton.
“There weren’t a lot of flights, so I had take the longer route.”
To be eligible, travellers must also live in the U.S., use Canada’s ArriveCAN app or web portal to upload their vaccination details and show proof of a negative molecular test that’s no more than 72 hours old.
David Plotkin, who flew to Toronto from Atlanta to see his brother and pregnant sister-in-law, was relieved to get the chance to visit again when he did.
“It’s a weight off my shoulders, honestly, to be able to see them,” Plotkin said. “It’s the kind of thing you hate to miss if you can help it.”
John Adams, a Florida resident who has been waging a relentless advertising campaign against the travel restrictions, said he was expecting to be back at his property on Vancouver Island before the supper hour.
“So far, our experience has been totally hassle-free given the substantial new requirements,” Adams wrote in an email from the airport in Tampa.
The restrictions had barely been eased 10 minutes before Adams got text messages from two separate people who had already crossed — one at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo, N.Y., the other in B.C.
“I asked both to rate their border crossing on a scale of one to 10 and both rated it as a 10.”
Travellers likely felt differently at the Fort Frances bridge between northern Ontario and Minnesota, where CBSA was reporting a seven-hour delay. Crossing from Maine to New Brunswick was taking upwards of four hours.
Elsewhere across the country, midday delays at various land crossings ranged from just a few minutes to nearly an hour.
“The CBSA continuously monitors traveller volumes and wait times to allocate resources and adjust staffing levels during peak travel periods,” the agency said in a statement.
“Travellers should plan for the possibility of additional processing time when crossing the border due to the enhanced public health measures.”
Fully vaccinated travellers who have recovered from the disease and are otherwise eligible to enter Canada can show proof of a positive molecular test taken between 14 and 90 days before crossing the border.
Denis Vinette, vice-president of the CBSA’s travellers branch, said the agency learned a lot when eligible Canadian citizens were allowed to return under similar conditions last month.
About half had to be turned away during the first week because they hadn’t received a Health Canada-approved vaccine, or had not waited the full 14 days after their last shot before travelling.
Canada has approved four vaccines: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot, also known as Covishield, and the single-dose Johnson & Johnson option. All except AstraZeneca have been approved and widely deployed in the U.S.
As of now, border agents won’t be setting up separate queues for vaccinated and unvaccinated visitors — Vinette said a pilot project last month found that doing so had a negligible impact on wait times.
It took just as long — and sometimes longer — to ensure that travellers claiming to be fully vaccinated were indeed eligible to skip the otherwise mandatory 14-day quarantine, he said.
However, as both travellers and agents grow accustomed to the new rules, separate lines could be put in place in the future as travel volume increases.
“If it brings particular flow and additional relief in some of our constrained operations, then we will look at it at that time, but it’s not currently in place.”
The U.S. has so far resisted easing restrictions on non-essential travel at land crossings, and won’t say when that might change. Air and sea travellers are exempt, though passengers by rail, ferry and pleasure boat are not.
Critics of that lack of action were quick to point out the discrepancy Monday.
“We should work in a co-operative way to find out how we can meet in the middle ground,” Pennsylvania congressman Dwight Evans told an online panel hosted by the Canadian American Business Council.
“I believe that it can be done, and I think it is something that we just have to kind of get our heads together (on).”
New York Rep. Brian Higgins, one of the most persistent congressional voices on easing restrictions in the Canada-U.S. corridor, reiterated his demand for a U.S. plan to let travel resume.
Keeping the restrictions in place “harms separated families and hurts opportunities for economic recovery,” Higgins tweeted. “The time to act is long overdue.”
U.S. border communities have been “decimated” by the restrictions, “with steep losses in employment, wages and sales tax revenues, among other economic impacts,” says a new report from the Border Policy Research Institute at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash.
The White House is exploring whether, when the time does finally come, to require visitors from outside the country to be fully vaccinated, although it is unclear whether that discussion specifically includes Canadian travellers.
The Canadian government is currently planning to allow vaccinated visitors from outside the U.S. to come to Canada for non-essential reasons as of Sept. 7.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 9, 2021.
Canada, China trade barbs at UN General Assembly over 2 Michaels, Meng Wanzhou – Global News
Canada and China were involved in a war of words at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Monday over the detentions of their citizens who were released over the weekend in an apparent prisoner swap.
Speaking on the closing day of the 76th session of the UNGA in New York, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau thanked international allies for their support in the case of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who returned to Canada after nearly three years in Chinese detention.
The announcement of their release by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday night came hours after a deferred prosecution agreement in the case of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, who was accused of committing fraud in order to circumvent U.S. sanctions against Iran.
On Friday, a B.C. Supreme Court judge withdrew the U.S. extradition charge against her, allowing her to return home to China.
Garneau told the UNGA that Canada applied both Canadian and international law in response to the U.S. request for extradition of Meng, and that the “two Michaels,” as they are known, paid a “heavy price” for Canada’s commitment to the rule of law.
“We continue to oppose the way these two citizens were treated,” Garneau said, adding that Canada “will never forget this experience.”
Canada and China’s relationship status after Meng, 2 Michaels return home: it’s complicated
China has long maintained that there is no connection between Meng’s case and that of Spavor and Kovrig, who were arrested over espionage charges just days after the Huawei executive’s apprehension.
Using the right to reply at the UNGA, a representative for China’s UN mission, speaking shortly after Garneau’s address, said Meng’s case is “completely different” to the Canadian men.
He accused the U.S. and Canada of arbitrarily detaining Meng, categorizing it as a “complete political incident and frame-up.”
“We hope that Canada can face up to the facts squarely, correct their mistakes and draw lessons from what happened so that they could not make further mistakes,” the Chinese diplomat added.
Exercising its own right to reply, a representative for Canada’s UN mission said the “two Michaels” did not benefit from a similar degree of transparency, respect, due process or judicial independence as Meng did.
Meng was kept under house arrest in one of her Vancouver mansions, while the two Canadians faced harsh conditions in Chinese detention — where they had limited access to the outside world and their families.
“We continue to oppose the way these Canadian citizens were treated and we will continue to speak out against arbitrary detention in state-to-state relations,” the Canadian diplomat added.
The Chinese representative fired back a final time, saying China could not accept what the Canadian representative said.
“Facts cannot be denied,” he said.
Analysing Canada-China relations after return of the two Michaels
Kovrig and Spavor’s safe return to Canada on Saturday, where they were greeted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Calgary, marked an end to a tense international stand-off that has strained ties between Ottawa and Beijing.
In another twist earlier on Monday, China’s Foreign Ministry said that Spavor and Kovrig were released on bail for health reasons.
China released the two Canadians on bail after a “diagnosis by professional medical institutions, and with the guarantee of the Canadian ambassador to China,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a daily briefing.
In an interview with the Global News on Sunday, Garneau said the federal government’s “eyes are wide open” when it comes to China.
“It’s an eyes-wide-open policy with respect to (the Chinese government),” Garneau told Mercedes Stephenson during an episode of Global News’ The West Block. He added that the arbitrary detention of the “two Michaels” had ground Canada’s relationship with China to a halt.
However, the country’s relationship with China is continually evolving, said Garneau, and the two will still “co-exist.”
“We will compete. We will cooperate in areas where we need to cooperate, such as climate change, and we will challenge China, whether it’s on human rights or whether it’s on arbitrary detention, when appropriate,” he said.
— with files from Global News’ Emerald Bensadoun, The Canadian Press and Associated Press
The West Block: September 26
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Tuesday – CBC.ca
Confirmed deaths from the coronavirus in Russia hit another record at 852 on Tuesday, up from a previous record of 828 on Friday, Russia’s state coronavirus task force reported.
Daily coronavirus infections in Russia have fallen from more than 20,000 in late August to about 18,000 in mid-September. However, the numbers have started creeping up again. Since last Thursday, the state coronavirus task force has been reporting more than 21,000 new cases a day. On Tuesday, 21,559 new infections were registered.
Despite the increase, there are few restrictions in place in Russia, which had one, six-week lockdown last spring. Vaccination rates have remained low, too, with only 32 per cent of the country’s 146 million population having received at least one shot of a vaccine and only 28 per cent fully vaccinated.
Russian authorities have reported a total of about 7.4 million confirmed infections and more than 205,000 confirmed deaths. However, reports by the government’s statistical service Rosstat indicates the tally of coronavirus-linked deaths retroactively reveal much higher mortality numbers.
-From The Associated Press, last updated at 8:25 a.m. ET
What’s happening in Canada
The COVID-19 case count continues to rise in New Brunswick, where health officials reported 86 new cases Monday — another record daily high since the pandemic began.
Premier Blaine Higgs reimposed a state of emergency on Friday after a senior health official admitted the province made a mistake by lifting all health protection measures — including mask wearing — on July 30.
With an active caseload of 650 as of Monday, the province was treating 41 patients in hospital — 16 of them in intensive care. Health officials confirmed that 78 per cent of the new cases were among those not fully vaccinated.
“The surge in COVID-19 cases is causing delays at assessment centres throughout the province and leading to longer-than-anticipated wait times for appointments and test results,” the province said in a statement Monday.
-From The Canadian Press, last updated at 8:30 a.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of early Tuesday morning, more than 232.3 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported around the world, according to Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.7 million.
In the Americas, Chilean authorities announced the end of a state of emergency in force since the start of the pandemic, a sign of life returning to normal following a sharp decrease in cases in the country.
New York hospitals began firing or suspending health-care workers for defying a state order to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and resulting staff shortages prompted some hospitals to postpone elective surgeries or curtail services.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Pakistan’s planning minister says the government will begin a drive to vaccinate children ages 12 and above to protect them from the coronavirus.
Japan’s government announced Tuesday that the coronavirus state of emergency will end this week to help rejuvenate the economy as infections slow.
In the Middle East, Jordan will fully reopen its main border crossing with Syria from Wednesday, government and industry officials said, as a high-level Syrian team arrived in Amman to discuss how to ease the flow of goods hit by the pandemic and a decade of conflict.
In Africa, health officials in South Africa on Monday reported 578 new cases of COVID-19 and 164 additional deaths, bringing the number of reported deaths in the country to 87,216.
Meanwhile, the head of the World Trade Organization said on Tuesday that the low COVID-19 vaccination rate of around four per cent in Africa was “devastating,” saying that trade should help address vaccine inequity.
WTO director general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s remarks came at the opening session of a Geneva-based trade event alongside South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa.
In Europe, Portugal is winding down its military-led vaccine task force after almost reaching its target of fully inoculating 85 per cent of the population against COVID-19.
-From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 8:15 a.m. ET
Canada foreign minister says eyes wide open when it comes to normalizing China ties
Canada‘s “eyes are wide open” when it comes to normalizing its relationship with China, Foreign Minister Marc Garneau said on Sunday, two days after the release of a Huawei executive following almost three years of house arrest in Vancouver.
Huawei Technologies Co Ltd Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, flew back to China on Friday after reaching an agreement with U.S. prosecutors to end a bank fraud case against her. That resulted in the scrapping of her extradition battle in a Canadian court.
Soon after Meng flew to China, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor – two Canadians detained by Chinese authorities just days after Meng’s arrest in Vancouver in December 2018 on a U.S. warrant – were released by Beijing.
Garneau told CBC News the government is now following a fourfold approach to China: “coexist,” “compete,” “cooperate” and “challenge.”
He said Canada would compete with China on issues like trade and cooperate on climate change, while challenging it on its treatment of Uighurs, Tibetans and Hong Kong as Ottawa has done in the past.
“Let me say, our eyes are wide open. We have been saying that for some time. There was no path to a relationship with China as long as the two Michaels were being detained,” Garneau said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Garneau received the two Canadians on Saturday when they arrived in Calgary, Alberta, after spending more than 1,000 days in solitary confinement.
Spavor was accused of supplying photographs of military equipment to Kovrig and sentenced in August to 11 years in jail. Kovrig had been awaiting sentencing.
Trudeau, who won a third term last Monday after a tight election race, had vowed to improve ties with China after becoming prime minister in 2015, building on his father’s success in establishing diplomatic ties with China in 1970.
But even before Meng’s arrest, Canada‘s repeated questioning of China’s human rights positions had irked Beijing, and the two countries have failed to come closer.
China has always denied any link between Meng’s extradition case and the detention of the two Canadians, but Garneau said that “the immediate return of the two Michaels linked” it to Meng’s case in a “very direct manner.”
Garneau said he had heard about the deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) several weeks ago, which opened the door to the return of the two men.
Canadian Ambassador to the United States Kirsten Hillman denied Washington had made the release of Kovrig and Spavor a condition for the resolution of the charges against Meng.
“Absolutely not. The DPA and the resolution of the charges against Ms. Meng was a completely independent process, and it was proceeding as it did,” Hillman told Canadian broadcaster CTV.
Garneau also said he did not think the timing of the men’s return had anything to do with that of the federal election.
“I think it just worked out that way.”
(Reporting by Denny Thomas; Editing by Grant McCool and Peter Cooney)
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