Canada is likely taking a phased approach to reopening its borders as vaccination rates ramp up and COVID-19 cases decline.
Politicians, businesses, and constituents have been pressuring both the United States and Canadian governments to ease the restrictions on the border to no avail.
The United States’ northern border first closed on March 21, 2020. The closure has been extended monthly by both governments. In May, both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced it would remain closed until June 21.
On May 28, however, mayors of Canadian towns along the border met with Canada’s Public Safety Minister Bill Blair to discuss reopening possibilities. Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati told USA Today that the Canadian government is thinking of easing restrictions once 75% of Canadians have at least one shot, and they could potentially reach that goal by June 21.
Then, Canadian Health Minister Patty Hadju announced in a news conference Wednesday the beginning of a phased reopening plan, likely to begin in early July.
Here’s everything you need to know about the US-Canada border restrictions:
Who can cross the US-Canada border?
As of now, Canadian citizens, permanent residents, people registered under Canada’s Indian Act can cross the border.
Foreign nationals must be eligible to enter. Eligibility is based on a variety of things: It can be immediate or extended family members who will be traveling for more than 15 days and must quarantine, a professional athlete traveling for a game, or someone coming for “compassionate reasons.”
More details about who is eligible can be found here.
What does Canada’s ‘phased reopening’ mean?
A lot of Canada’s phased reopening plan is still unknown.
Hadju said that the first phase, likely to start in July, would mean that those already eligible who are vaccinated can enter the country without a 14-day quarantine. Those entering will still have to pass two COVID-19 tests and quarantine while they wait for the results in addition to being vaccinated.
Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, told reporters during the news conference that Canada is working on a way for visitors to show proof of vaccination at the border.
This move benefits those like Van Buren Charter Township resident Priscilla Roussis who works in health care and has been unable to take the time off to visit her partner in Canada since the pandemic began.
When can I travel to Canada for nonessential reasons?
Tourists are still ineligible and Canada has not released information about when that might change.
In a June 8 news conference, Trudeau said he still wants to wait until 75% of Canadians are vaccinated. As of Wednesday, 63% of Canadians have one dose and 9% are fully vaccinated.
“It’s very clear that even though one dose has allowed us to significantly protect Canadians, to remove many of the pressures from our public health systems, it is still an incomplete protection,” Trudeau said. “We need people to get the full two doses of their vaccines and that’s why easing of restrictions will be focused on Canadians who are fully vaccinated.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki declined to offer specific information about when the border might open up during Tuesday’s news conference.
“Well, again, we would make a decision about the Canada border based on the guidance of our health and medical experts,” Psaki said. “And I’m sure that when that decision is made, we would communicate through diplomatic channels. But I don’t have anything to predict about the timeline.”
How does this impact tourism season?
Tourism and business organizations across Canada and the United States have been urging their governments to reopen the border as they continue to face pandemic-related losses.
“We’ve had a lot of small and medium-sized businesses that have been affected,” Rakesh Naidu, CEO and president of the Windsor-Essex Chamber of Commerce, told the Free Press. “Typically, in a normal year, about 25% of the revenue that small and medium-sized businesses make comes because of the cross-border visitors.”
The Canadian tourism associations launched a campaign Tuesday that asked for a clear reopening plan.
Trudeau and the White House have declined to give a specific date when the border might reopen for tourism. Both governments say they will continue to make decisions based on the guidance of health and medical experts.
Contact Emma Stein: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @_emmastein.