After a week of speculation that details on the gradual reopening of the Canada-U.S. land border could be unveiled soon, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cleared the air on Sunday (June 13), telling reporters that a deal to lift coronavirus restrictions with the U.S. has not been reached.
The update was shared at a televised press conference that marked the conclusion of the 2021 G7 Leaders’ Summit, in Carbis Bay, U.K., where Trudeau was in attendance.
The Prime Minister said he spoke with U.S. President Joe Biden about ways to relax the rules at their shared border crossing, which has been closed to non-essential traffic since March of 2020.
“Obviously with the longest, undefended border in the world between the two countries, it is extremely important to get back to normalcy, as quickly as possible,” Trudeau said on Sunday.
However, coordinating an approach for reopening the border is still ongoing, Trudeau said.
“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. “Many countries, like Canada, continue to say that now is not the time to travel.”
Canada’s current border and quarantine restrictions are set to expire on June 21.
Last week, the Toronto Star, speaking to an unnamed source close to the matter, reported that details on a reopening plan could be made by Friday (June 11).
The federal government has previously stated that it is taking a multi-phased approach to resume cross-border activity.
Previous reports have claimed that Ottawa is working on a “two-track system” in which quarantine and testing requirements would relax for fully-vaxxed visitors.
"We are looking at how we're going to start welcoming up tourists in a phased way as the numbers come down in Canada, as the numbers start to come down in the United States and elsewhere around the world," Trudeau said last week on June 7, speaking at an event hosted by the St. John’s Board of Trade.
Trudeau, at a press conference on June 8, said the easing of travel restrictions will be "focused on Canadians who are fully vaccinated.”
Pressure is on
Politicians and business leaders have been voicing their concerns about the closed border and have been pressuring Ottawa to release a plan as vaccination rates increase.
U.S. congressman and co-chair of the Northern Border Caucus Brian Higgins recently told Global News that U.S. President Biden “said clearly to me, and more broadly, that he wants to get the border open, or get Americans back to a sense of normalcy, by July 4.”
MP Wayne Easter, who chairs the House of Commons finance committee, told POLITICO on May 27 that Ottawa needs to get moving on a strategy.
“As you get into July 1, Canada Day, and July 4, Independence Day, then those target dates are real pressure points for wanting to be normalized,” Easter said. “The heat’s on, and I think we absolutely must have a plan.”
The Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC), last week, launched a letter-writing campaign directed at the federal government, urging officials to “acknowledge the urgent need and to commit to a date to open the border before the summer tourism season is lost.”
The Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable, a coalition of leaders in tourism and travel, has also urged the government to provide “clear, timely, and safe guidance on reopening travel.”
A report released in May by the COVID-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel, a federally-appointed group of epidemiology and virology experts, is driving calls to change Canada’s border and quarantine rules.
The report recommends eliminating quarantine for fully vaccinated travellers, implementing changes to testing and screening, and eliminating the hotel quarantine policy. (Click here to view the entire document).
Last week, the Canadian government confirmed that it will begin taking steps to ease quarantine restrictions for Canadian citizens and permanent residents who are fully vaccinated.
This includes eliminating mandatory hotel quarantine for eligible travellers that have received all of their vaccine doses.
The exemption won’t apply to tourists or foreign business travellers that aren’t essential workers.
While no official start date was announced, officials said it’s their intention to implement the changes during the first week of July.
The Canada-U.S. land border has continued to allow essential goods and services, essential workers and others who meet certain requirements to cross.
While the land border is closed, Canadians are still able to fly to the U.S. due to a well-known loophole in the system.
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