Canada-U.S. border closing to non-essential travel

Trade will not be affected

The Canada-U.S. border will be closed to non-essential traffic in both directions “by mutual consent,” the leaders of both countries confirmed Wednesday as efforts across the continent to contain the widening COVID-19 pandemic continued to upend daily life.

Trump disclosed the news on Twitter shortly after stock markets opened, following media reports in both countries that the White House and the federal Liberal government were in talks to limit the cross-border spread of the virus without choking off vital lines of commerce.

READ MORE: Trudeau unveils emergency fund to help Canadians stuck abroad due to COVID-19

“We will be, by mutual consent, temporarily closing our Northern Border with Canada to non-essential traffic,” Trump tweeted. “Trade will not be affected.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a morning news conference outside his home that he spoke with Trump earlier in the day, and likened the measure to the instructions from public-health officials that people avoid visiting their neighbours unless doing so is essential.

“Travellers will no longer be permitted to cross the border for recreation and tourism,” Trudeau said.

“In both our countries, we’re encouraging people to stay home; we’re telling our citizens not to visit their neighbours unless they absolutely have to. This collaborative and reciprocal measure is an extension of that prudent approach.”

Essential travel will be allowed to continue to preserve critical supply chains, he added, which means trucks will continue to cross the border to deliver food, fuel and medicine, and essential workers like health-care professionals who live and work on opposite sides will also be permitted to cross.

Government officials also say exemptions will remain in place to ensure Canadians who are now in the United States are able to return home.

Both sides have been in talks on how to limit travel in both directions across the border without restricting the all-important flow of trade and commerce between the two countries at a time when the global economy is under severe pressure.

On Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland made it clear that the government, which has for the moment exempted U.S. citizens from its own ban on foreign nationals, had been preoccupied with finding a mutually agreeable solution to the border conundrum.

“Nearly 200,000 people cross that border every day and that border and that traffic that goes across that border is literally a lifeline for both the Canadians and the Americans on both sides of that border,” Freeland said.

“We get our groceries thanks to truckers who drive back and forth across that border. Very urgently needed medical supplies and medicines go back and forth across that border. And essential workers go back and forth across that border every day. So it is a unique relationship for Canada and it’s important for us in handling our situation on the border to be sure that we act to get things right.”

Health Minister Patty Hajdu, whose Thunder Bay-Superior North riding in Ontario is near the Minnesota border, cited a number of examples of what the government would consider non-essential travel, such as shopping trips by residents of border communities — “things that people have taken for granted in a border town for a very long time.”

Trump, whose first term was often marked by a combative relationship with Canada as the U.S. sought to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, sounded a far more conciliatory note when he spoke publicly on Tuesday.

“The relationship is outstanding with both (Canada and Mexico) — outstanding,” Trump said, citing in particular NAFTA’s replacement, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which Canada finally approved late last week before temporarily shutting down Parliament.

READ MORE: B.C. coronavirus cases jump by 83, public health emergency declared

Citing Trump administration sources, the New York Times reported Tuesday that asylum-seekers and others trying to cross the southern border illegally would be turned away immediately in an effort to protect border agents and keep COVID-19 out of U.S. detention facilities. U.S. citizens and green-card holders would still be allowed to enter the country, the Times said.

Dan Ujczo, a trade lawyer in Columbus, Ohio, who specializes in Canada-U.S. issues, said business and trade interests in the two countries, along with governments at every level, have been working on solutions ever since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 exposed the absence of suitable contingency plans.

Since then, so-called “trusted trader” programs like Free and Secure Trade and Partners in Protection have advanced the idea that whatever the circumstances, cross-border commerce must be allowed to continue, he said.

“Companies enrolled in these programs likely will have continued access to ensure cross-border trade.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 18, 2020.

James McCarten, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

corona

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Timeline pushed back for Tofino-Ucluelet highway construction project

Ucluelet mayor Mayco Noel said the ministry’s announcement came as “no surprise.”

Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District adopts 2020 budget in closed-door meeting

The plan shows an overall tax increase of 6.64 percent, applied differently in each electoral area

3-D printer provides PPE for West Coast General Hospital

City of Port Alberni purchases 3-D printers to help with pandemic

Nanaimo, Royal Jubilee to be Vancouver Island’s COVID-19 frontline hospitals

Other Island hospitals will be admitting COVID-19 patients and will be used in a support role

COVID-19: 4 new deaths, 25 new cases but only in Vancouver Coastal, Fraser Health

A total of 1,291 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus

An ongoing updated list of Alberni Valley events affected by COVID-19

Has your event been cancelled or postponed? Check here

COVID-19: Don’t get away for Easter weekend, Dr. Bonnie Henry warns

John Horgan, Adrian Dix call 130 faith leaders as holidays approach

COVID-19: Trudeau says 30K ventilators on the way; 3.6M Canadians claim benefits

Canada has seen more than 17,000 cases and at least 345 deaths due to COVID-19

Comox spring training cancelled for Snowbirds next month

The team announced that due to ongoing travel restrictions they will not be training in the Valley

Some Cowichan schools to reopen for children of essential-services workers

Cowichan Valley will open 8 elementary schools this week

RCMP call on kids to name latest foal recruits

The baby horses names are to start with the letter ‘S’

Physiotherapists turn to technology to reach patients during COVID-19

Just because services, jobs, and socializing have been put on hold, it… Continue reading

As Canadians return home amid pandemic, border crossings dip to just 5% of usual traffic

Non-commercial land crossing dipped by 95%, air travel dropped by 96 per cent, according to the CBSA

Most Read