The Canadian government is going to relax travel restrictions even more, and soon, as the expiry date for border and quarantine measures looms, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc told media at a press briefing on Tuesday (June 15).
"Next week we'll have more to say about measures that will be in place at both the land borders and the air arrivals at the four designated airports,'' LeBlanc told reporters.
"The good news is we hope and believe these measures can evolve. in a phased appropriate way over the next number of weeks."
"We'll have more to say about those specific measures and the implementation details in the coming days.''
Canada’s quarantine and border rules (including banning non-essential travel at the Canada-U.S. land border) are set to expire next Monday, June 21.
Whatever update is provided will add to Ottawa’s recent decision to exempt fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents from hotel quarantine and, upon receiving a negative test, the order to self-isolate for 14 days after returning from abroad.
This exemption, which officials say will kick in during the first week of July, will not apply to tourists or foreign business travellers that aren’t essential workers.
Eligible travellers must have full inoculation against COVID-19 for 14 days or more with doses approved by Health Canada (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson).
Individuals are still required to obtain a negative pre-departure PCR test, undergo a PCR test on arrival and quarantine (at home) while awaiting their test results.
Minister LeBlanc’s remarks come as business and political leaders put pressure on Ottawa to release a concrete plan for reopening the Canada-U.S. land border and the travel and tourism sector in general.
Earlier this week, the Canadian Travel & Tourism Roundtable – a cross-Canadian coalition of tourism and travel leaders – urged the federal government to release a national plan for reopening land and air borders, among other things, such as a vaccination certification program for international travel.
The ban on non-essential travel at the Canada-U.S. land border has been in place since March 2020.
As the order expires this Monday, and as vaccination rates increase in both countries, the ball is in Canada and America’s court to release next steps on lifting restrictions.
Changes won’t necessarily kick in on June 21
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been clear that reopening the Canada-U.S. land border will be a “phased approach,” hinting that the easing of border measures will apply to fully vaccinated Canadians.
LeBlanc said Ottawa will announce "modest phased-in adjustments at the border'' by Monday, but noted that the changes won’t necessarily take effect on June 21 specifically.
“This shouldn’t be a surprise, because we’ve talked about potential measures that could be phased in at some point in July,” Leblanc said Tuesday.
“We may signal in the renewal of these [orders] some modest, phased-in adjustments at the border, but with a date fixed to take effect. It doesn’t have to take effect on the 21st of June…We’ll have more to say in the coming days around a phased-in approach at the border.”
Logistical issues, such as a system that would allow travellers to provide proof of vaccination, are still being worked on, LeBlanc said.
“The provinces, by virtue of their jurisdiction, have ownership of the health information, the vaccination information, regarding their citizens,” Leblanc said. “The idea would be to find the best common, secure platform for Canadians who want to have proof of vaccination in the context of international travel.”
“If there’s a phased adjustment of border measures in July or later in August or so on, there may be a transitional measure. But we’ll have more to say about that in the coming weeks.”
What’s the plan?
Prime Minister Trudeau said he spoke with U.S. President Joe Biden at last week’s 2021 G7 Leaders’ Summit, in Carbis Bay, U.K. about lifting restrictions at the land border, but no deal was reached.
“We will continue to work closely together on moving forward in the right way but each of us always will put at the forefront the interests and the safety of our own citizens,” Trudeau said at a press conference on June 14.
Meanwhile, political leaders in Western Canada are saying that they plan to push Trudeau on a reopening plan and timeline this week.
"Come Thursday we expect the federal government to have a plan, and then we'll work on building consensus around that,” B.C. Premier John Horgan said Tuesday, as reported by the Canadian Press.
Don't miss a single travel story: subscribe to PAX today!