Gone are the days when Canadians and Americans could freely drive across their shared border for a quick shopping trip or to visit family and friends.
Now, the Canada-U.S. land border that was once wide open is closed to non-essential travel, affecting the lives of many people on both sides.
Here’s the latest on what you need to know about Canada-U.S. border rules and why our neighbours to the south may not be visiting for a while.
When will the Canada-U.S. border reopen?
It came as no surprise to many people when the federal government announced last month that the Canada-U.S. land border — which closed on March 21 to non-essential traffic — would remain shut until at least Aug. 21.
Canadians can still fly to the U.S., but that rule isn’t reciprocal: Canada prohibits U.S. visitors from entering via all modes of transport.
Canada and the U.S. review their border closure agreement every 30 days. Several experts in different fields have told CBC News that they predict the border won’t reopen until sometime next year.
The main reason: COVID-19 cases are still surging in several U.S. states.
“It doesn’t seem to be getting any better in the U.S.,” said U.S. Immigration lawyer Len Saunders, whose office sits close to the Canadian border in Blaine, Wash. He believes the border could stay closed for another six months.
“There’s really no reason why the Canadian government, at this point, would want to open it up and subject Canadians to an increased rate of COVID infections.”
Many Canadians have also made it clear that they want the border to stay shut for now.
When Leger Marketing asked 1,500 Canadians last month if they thought the Canada-U.S. border should reopen at the end of July, 86 per cent of respondents said they were opposed to the idea.
In early July, 29 members of the U.S. Congress sent a joint letter to U.S. Homeland Security and the Canadian government. In it, they asked that both countries start working on a phased reopening of the border.
One member of Congress posted the letter on Twitter and was bombarded with angry comments from Canadians demanding the border stay shut. Some even suggested that Canada build a wall.
NOOOooooooOOOOOO !!!!!! <a href=”https://t.co/j4lkshd92B”>pic.twitter.com/j4lkshd92B</a>
Given public opinion, economist Moshe Lander said it would be “political suicide” for Canadian politicians to contemplate reopening the border right now.
“As long as Canadians don’t feel safe, then why force open that border when there’s no strong political logic to doing it?” said Lander, a professor at Concordia University in Montreal.
He predicts a possible border reopening in middle to late 2021 — if there’s enough confidence at that point that the virus is under control.
What about separated families?
To qualify as common-law, couples must have lived together for at least one year and prove it with documentation showing a shared address.
Some separated couples who don’t meet the criteria have opted to tie the knot.
Lawyer Saunders said that at least two dozen of his clients — who are in cross-border relationships — have expedited their marriage plans so that they can reunite in Canada now.
Canadians can fly to the U.S. to get married, or both partners can travel to the Peace Arch border crossing between B.C. and Washington state.
That border crossing includes a neutral zone — a shared Canada-U.S. park. The Canadian section of the park is closed. However, Canadians can still enter the U.S. section of the park for the day to visit with their American partner — or even get married.
Saunders said that he has advised many inquiring cross-border couples that they can marry in the park, as long as they obtain a Washington state marriage licence and are wed by a Washington officiant.
“It’s totally legal to get married on the American side,” Saunders said. “A lot of people are taking advantage of that.”
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) said that when Canadians return from visiting the U.S. side of the park, they are required to self-quarantine for 14 days. It’s not known if people are actually complying.
Crackdown on Americans driving to Alaska
Americans are allowed to drive through Canada to Alaska for essential reasons, such as for work or to return home. However, they’re not to make unnecessary stops along the way.
In June, Alberta RCMP issued 10 fines of $1,200 to U.S. residents headed to Alaska who stopped in Banff National Park to see the sights.
On July 10, B.C. RCMP fined an American boat operator $1,000 for entering Canadian waters for a vacation.
“It was clear the persons on this vessel had misstated their intention to travel to Alaska and had entered Canada for the purposes of tourism,” said the RCMP in a statement.
To try to curb the problem, the CBSA introduced stricter rules on Friday for Americans driving to Alaska.
They must enter Canada through one of five designated border crossings and hang a CBSA-issued tag from their car’s rear view mirror that lays out the purpose and rules of their trip.
Before exiting Canada for Alaska, drivers must check in once again with the CBSA.
Even before the new rules took effect, it appears that Americans were getting the message. Alberta RCMP said no fines were issued to wayward U.S. drivers in July.
“It’s heartening,” said Alberta RCMP spokesperson Fraser Logan. “It’s just important that … you’re following the rules.”
WATCH | Why cross-border couples can still meet up at the Peace Arch border crossing:
Trump claims Canada wants U.S. border reopened – CTV News
U.S. President Donald Trump says that Canada wants to see the Canada-U.S. border reopened, but the federal government says it’ll make the decision based on public health advice.
“We’re looking at the border with Canada. Canada would like it open, and you know we want to get back to normal business,” Trump said outside the White House on Friday.
“We’re going to be reopening the borders pretty soon,” Trump said, adding that he thinks the U.S. is “rounding the turn” in that country’s still massive COVID-19 outbreak.
To date there have been more than six million cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and more than 198,000 Americans have died. Over the course of the crisis there have been 141,565 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada, and more than 9,000 deaths.
On Friday federal officials on both sides of the border announced that the Canada-U.S. border closure would be extended for at least another month, until Oct. 21.
The land border between the two countries has been closed to all non-essential travel since March 21, a move first made to limit the spread of the virus.
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, though some restrictions on close family members have been eased allowing families to reunite, while others continue to call for further compassion for non-married couples and others who are still not permitted to cross.
Pandemic tensions have flared in Canada over prospective American visitors, some of whom have used loopholes in the rules to enter the country.
CTVNews.ca reached out to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office for comment, and spokesperson Chantal Gagnon pointed to Public Safety Minister Bill Blair’s comments earlier on Friday about the continuation of the border restrictions.
“We will continue to base our decisions on the best public health advice available to keep Canadians safe,” Blair said in a tweet.
In the latest episode of CTV News’ podcast Trend Line, Chair of Nanos Research Nik Nanos said that “people in Canada see what’s happening in the United States, and they have significant concerns about the risks to Canadians because of the pandemic.”
Canada’s Public Health Agency president resigns amid rising coronavirus cases – Global News
Tina Namiesniowski, the president of the Public Health Agency of Canada, has resigned leaving the department in charge of leading country’s response to the coronavirus without a leader, amid rising cases of the virus in some of Canada’s most populous provinces.
In a letter to staff released by Health Canada, Namiesniowski said she needed “to take a break” and “step aside so someone else can step up” to lead the public health agency tasked with coordinating Canada’s response to COVID-19. Namiesniowski was appointed to the job in May 2019.
Her resignation comes as caseloads of the virus have surged in Ontario, B.C. and Quebec and criticism about the federal government’s response to the virus in the early stages of the pandemic has mounted.
A spokesperson for Health Canada said, “a replacement will be announced next week.”
“This is a very difficult decision for me but I think it’s the right one,” Namiesniowski said. “You really need someone who will have the energy and the stamina to take the Agency and our response to the next level.
“Even though I might not have accomplished everything I would have liked to have done, I truly hope the foundation for change I’ve championed through our work on PHAC of the future will help serve as a road map moving forward.”
According to her LinkedIn profile, Namiesniowski worked as the executive vice-president of the Canada Border Services Agency and served as an assistant deputy minister at Agriculture Canada and Public Safety Canada.
“I will support the transition of a new President and then I am going to take some time to reconnect with my husband, kids and aging father and think about my own next steps,” she wrote. “I do want to remind everyone about how much of a toll this relentless pace can have on each of us and our loved ones so please try and look after yourselves and each other.”
PHAC, which Namiesniowski formally headed, faced criticism over a depleted national emergency stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE) and reports that the Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN) – a federal pandemic early warning system — was shut down last year.
Namiesniowski said in her email Friday, “it is hard to believe that close to ten months has elapsed since the Agency picked up the initial GPHIN signal on December 31st, 2019, about a cluster of cases in Wuhan of an unknown respiratory illness,” but did not mention the ongoing controversy around GPHIN.
Last week, Health Minister Patty Hajdu ordered a review over the warning system matter and reports that officials working on it were silenced, just months before the global outbreak of the coronavirus.
Hajdu said in a statement that a “full and expeditious independent review” has been requested.
“We were concerned to learn of reports that GPHIN analysts felt that they were not able to proceed with their important work, and that some scientists didn’t feel fully empowered. That’s why we have ordered a full and expeditious independent review of GPHIN,” said Hajdu’s office in a statement.
“This independent review is an important step in restoring GPHIN and ensuring that it can continue its valuable contributions to public health in Canada and around the world.”
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Canada's premiers push for $28B top-up to annual federal health care spending – CBC.ca
Canada’s premiers are demanding $28 billion in additional federal funding to cover their ballooning health care costs — a boost that would bring annual transfers to $70 billion.
The premiers have agreed unanimously to call on the Liberal government to address what they call an “absolutely critical” situation.
The premiers are meeting in Ottawa today to map out their demands ahead of next week’s throne speech.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Quebec Premier François Legault — the incoming chair of the Council of the Federation — met in person, with other premiers joining virtually.
“It’s time for the federal government to do its fair share,” Legault said.
Ford said that as the demand for health care services has risen, support from the federal government has been decreasing.
“We’re in desperate need of your support,” he said.
The proposed increase would mean the federal government would cover 35 per cent of provinces’ health care costs, up from the current 22 per cent. Right now, the provinces spend $188 billion on health care, with the federal government covering $42 billion.
“We need the support from the federal government. We’re asking the fed government to support all Canadians. Be a true partner when it comes to health care,” Ford said.
Pallister said Canadians are living in fear because of the consequences of federal underfunding, such as longer waits for services and diagnoses.
“Right now, millions of Canadians are waiting for an appointment for a test, for consequential treatment, for surgery. Those delays are painful. A lump that isn’t diagnosed is not fun,” he said.
“Every single day right now in Canada, there are people in fear directly of the consequences of delay, and their families join in that fear, and their friends join in that fear.”
Pallister said it’s been a longstanding problem that has gone unaddressed. He said it’s time for the federal government to resume its “rightful role as a true funding partner” in order to shorten wait times and improve health care.
Ford and Legault met in Mississauga, Ont., last week to discuss economic recovery and health preparedness as the number of active COVID-19 cases rises in parts of the country.
“Premier Ford is in Ottawa to join his fellow Premiers ahead of the throne speech to press the federal government on critical priorities for the people of Ontario, including strengthening frontline health care, helping people and businesses get back on their feet, and moving shovel-ready infrastructure projects forward,” said Ford’s spokesperson Ivana Yelich in an email.
The federal government is providing $19 billion to the provinces to help ease the financial burden of the pandemic; about $10 billion of that sum is for health-related expenses.
But Ford and Legault said more long-term funding is needed to address critical health care issues that predate the pandemic, such as the increasing cost of new medical technologies and drugs and an aging population.
The federal government will transfer almost $42 billion to provinces and territories for health care this fiscal year under an agreement that mandates an an annual increase of three per cent.
Legault has said that the federal contribution is well below the 50 per cent share originally agreed upon decades ago.
Before the premiers’ meeting, Ford sat down with Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and the city’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Vera Etches.
The provincial government has imposed stricter rules on gatherings in the Ottawa, Toronto and Peel regions after their COVID-19 infections spiked.
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