Federal Government in Talks to Reopen Canada-U.S. Border

Lifting of Travel Restrictions Will be Gradual, Not Immediate 

After over a year of restricted travel between Canada and the United States, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is looking at potentially reopening the world’s longest international border.

According to Bloomberg, the federal government is only in early discussions, so the border will likely not be reopening right away.

In fact, the travel restrictions that have been in place since March 2020 are expected to be extended into June again later this week. However, Canada will continue to allow international flights to arrive through airports in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and Calgary.

According to the Canada Border Services Agency, between March 21, 2020 and April 20, 2021, Canada turned back 387 asylum-seekers attempting to cross between ports of entry. Reuters found that at least one asylum-seeker turned away at the Canadian border was deported once in the United States. Other asylum seekers were held in detention centres.

On May 4, 2021, the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers filed a legal challenge of the Federal Government of Canada’s Canada-U.S. border restrictions. This legal challenge addresses the serious harm which refugee claimants who are turned away at the Canadian border have faced.

When Canada is ready to re-open the border, one approach being considered is to allow vaccinated people to travel between Canada and the U.S. without having to take a COVID-19 testing or quarantine for 14 days.

This lines up with Health Minister Patty Hajdu’s recent statements that Canada was considering implementing a “vaccine passport” policy that would allow vaccinated people to travel.

However, it’s also important to note that Trudeau has suggested that 75% of Canadians would need to be fully vaccinated before the border would reopen. As of this week, only 53% of Canadians have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. It’s currently estimated that the majority of Canadians will not be fully vaccinated until at least September.

Once an official approach is confirmed, the reopening of the border will be gradual, and dependent on how many active COVID-19 cases there are in both countries.

The Canadian government has not yet confirmed that discussions regarding the lifting of travel restrictions have taken place.

“We brought forward significant restrictions at our borders over a year ago to limit the spread of Covid-19 in Canada,” said James Cudmore, director of communications for Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, in a statement. “Every month, the federal government consults with public health officials to understand which modifications are required to the existing measures at our borders to keep our communities safe from Covid-19.”

“Minister Blair is in regular contact with his American counterparts about issues relating to our shared border. Until the conditions on both sides of the border change very substantively, the measures at our borders will remain intact,” he added.