In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, both Prime Minister Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump previously announced their decision to close the border by mutual agreement on March 18th, 2020. The policy took effect on March 20th.
When the border closure was first announced, Prime Minister Trudeau indicated that it would be temporary but did not provide an estimate for when the restriction would be lifted.
However, this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the United States had agreed to extend the mutual ban on non-essential border crossings for another 30 days.
During his announcement on May 19, Trudeau stated:
“We’ve given ourselves another month before we have to have the right answers to those questions on non-essential travel.
Even now, we know that we need to do more to ensure that travellers who are coming back from overseas or from the United States, as Canadians, are properly followed up on, are properly isolated and don’t become further vectors for the spread of COVID-19.
We’re working closely with the provinces to ensure that arrival of people into Canada — even now, but certainly, once we get to a point where non-essential travel picks up again in the coming months, I guess — we need to have strong measures in place.”
Acting U.S. Department of Homeland Security director Chad Wolf made a similar announcement on the same day, explaining that the U.S. would be extending its border closures with Canada and Mexico by an additional 30 days. He stated:
“The President has made it clear that we must continue to keep legitimate, commercial trade flowing while limiting those seeking to enter our country for non-essential purposes. Non-essential travel will not be permitted until this administration is convinced that doing so is safe and secure.”
Asked about the issue later that day, President Donald Trump stated:
“As things clean up in terms of the ‘plague,’ we’re both going to want to do the normal — we want to get back, everything we want to get back to normal.”
Currently, the United States has over 1.5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 93,000 deaths; Canada has reported 80,102 cases and 6,028 deaths, as of this posting.
While Quebec has been the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada, with approximately 55% of all cases and over 60% of all deaths, Ontario has also been hard hit, representing almost 30% of all Canadian cases and 32% of all deaths. Ontario Premier Doug Ford has expressed his opinion on the continued border closure, stating last week:
“Right now, we’re going to have to keep the borders closed … we just can’t risk it.”
As we previously explained, the border closure prohibits all non-essential travel, such as vacations and cross-border shopping, but allows essential travel without restricting trade, commerce and essential employees.
We do not yet know when the border will reopen to non-essential travellers, but the Prime Minister has not ruled out a further extension beyond June 21st. However, once more travel is permitted, it is expected that additional precautions will be in place.
According to Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Teresa Tam, the current restrictions on travel have been essential to Canada’s ability to flatten the curve during the first wave of the virus. In order to continue in these efforts once the border reopens, it is expected that all people arriving in Canada will be subject to a 14-day quarantine period upon arrival. Given that, it seems like it will be a while yet before causal day or weekend trips across the border will be a feasible option.
Border communities in Canada have reacted positively to the ongoing closure, as essential border crossings have been operating smoothly, while the restrictions have helped to limit the community transmission of COVID-19.
It is a difficult time for all, and the situation is constantly evolving. The immigration lawyers at Garson Immigration Law continue to monitor changes closely and will provide ongoing updates as the situation evolves. If you have questions about how COVID-19 might impact your business’s immediate and long-range immigration needs, or an existing or in-progress work permit, please reach out to the immigration lawyers at Garson Immigration Law by contacting us online or by calling us at 416-321-2860.