Canada reopening its border to fully vaccinated U.S. travellers as of Aug. 9 is the “right step to do,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Tuesday (July 27).
The PM was speaking at a news conference in Moncton, New Brunswick, where he announced that Canada now has enough vaccines to fully immunize every eligible person in the country against COVID-19.
Trudeau was responding to a reporter who had asked if Canada had “jumped the gun” in relaxing restrictions at the land border, which has been closed to non-essential travel since March 2020.
“The health data is fairly clear that encouraging or allowing for travel of fully vaccinated individuals is low risk. It’s not zero risk, but it is low risk,” Trudeau said, in response.
Given Canada’s low COVID-19 case counts, reopening the border to Americans who have had their full series of shots “is the right step to do,” Trudeau said, noting that the government will be monitoring COVID cases “very, very closely.”
Trudeau’s remarks come as Canada receives a new shipment of vaccines, bringing the total number of doses delivered to more than 66 million.
A one-sided situation
It should be noted that the soon-to-be loosened rules at the land border doesn’t work both ways – no reciprocal agreement between Canada and the United States was announced, nixing any suggestion that the two countries would reopen at the same time.
"Every country gets to set its own rules about how it will keep its citizens safe," Trudeau said at a press conference on July 20.
U.S. officials, last week, said the ban on non-essential travel from Canada into the U.S. at land ports of entry will remain in place until at least Aug. 21.
READ MORE: U.S. border to remain closed until Aug. 21
While the land border has been closed to non-essential travel for more than a year, Canadians, throughout the pandemic, have still been allowed to travel to the U.S. by air.
Border workers vote to strike
Meanwhile, Canada’s reopening plan may face roadblocks after the two unions representing Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) workers, this week, voted in favour of striking – an action that could occur as soon as Aug. 6.
The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the Customs and Immigration Union (CIU), which represents more than 8,500 CBSA workers, says employees have been without a contract for more than three years and are seeking better protections against a "toxic workplace culture.”
“Our members at CBSA have been on the front lines throughout the pandemic, and many have contracted COVID-19 while working,” stated Chris Aylward, PSAC national president, on July 26. “They’ve kept our borders safe, screened travellers entering Canada, and ensured the rapid clearance of vaccine shipments.”
“Now it’s time for the government to step up for them the way they’ve stepped up for Canadians.”
In a statement, Mark Weber, CIU national president, said strike action “is always a last resort.”
“…but we’re grappling with systemic workplace harassment issues that must be addressed,” he said. “The toxic workplace culture at CBSA is taking a heavy toll on the mental health and well-being of our members.”