Border closure looks certain to extend past July

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The Canadian government continues to dash hopes that the U.S./Canada border will open any time in the foreseeable future. During a media briefing June 22, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau indicated that people shouldn’t expect the borders to open quickly. “I understand there are a lot of tourism firms and airlines who would like us to be able to once again welcome tourists,” he said.

The U.S. and Canada had previously announced that the U.S./Canada border closure would be extended another 30 days until July 21. The previous closure agreement was set to expire on June 21. The two countries initially agreed to a temporary border closure on March 21, barring non-essential travel between the two countries to slow the spread of Covid-19. This is the third month-long extension to the initial closure.

The federal government has faced unrelenting pressure from provincial premiers arguing against re-opening the border. The U.S. has had more than 2.4 million cases of Covid-19 to date with 123,464 deaths, according to the CDC. Canada has had about 101,000 cases with 8,453 deaths, according to Statistics Canada. B.C. has had 2,822 cases with 169 deaths compared Washington state’s 28,870 cases and 1,276 deaths as of June 21. The U.S. has about three times as many cases per capita as Canada.

In a June 23 report by The New York Times, European countries preparing to re-open their borders are planning on blocking Americans traveling from the U.S. due to the country’s failure to control the virus. The U.S. has been lumped in with a group of countries including Russia, Brazil, China, Uganda and Vietnam. The criteria used to create the list has been based on rigorous scientific criteria, the report said, but echoes moves by the U.S. in March when air travel from Europe was closed down.

The conditions of the border closure remain the same as before. Non-essential travel across the border is prohibited while essential travelers such as health professionals and transportation services continue unimpeded. In normal times, approximately 75 percent of border crossings are made by Canadians traveling to and from the U.S., often to shop, meaning some Whatcom County businesses have been hit hard by the closure.

On June 9, the Canadian government allowed immediate family members separated by the U.S./Canada border to enter Canada under certain conditions.

The continued closure of the border has inspired petitions on both sides of the border calling on the two governments to address the special circumstances of Point Roberts. A petition launched in late May by local resident John Beals on Change.org (bit.ly/3ebymLx) to increase the list of essential reasons to cross the border has had 2,087 signatories as of June 23.

Another one launched by Kevin McIntosh of Ladner (bit.ly/3fy4EAl) points out the inability of Canadians to maintain or remove their cabins, RVs, boats, horses and other property in Point Roberts. The petition calls for special dispensation “allowing Canadians access … to perform maintenance, removal or care functions under controlled conditions, i.e. no contact with local residents for business or pleasure purposes.” As of June 23, 1,254 people had signed the appeal.

Not everyone is in favor of loosening up the border judging from comments on Facebook and NextDoor. Dana Bernard, a permanent resident of Canada and U.S. citizen with a home in Point Roberts, wrote on NextDoor that he wasn’t “going to sign this [Ladner petition]. … Have you heard of any/all of the negative comments that the people of Tsawwassen/Delta have been saying about the people of Point Roberts? Instead of thinking about us as neighbors, they think of us as disgusting, disease-infested, lower than life human beings that should never cross the border. I live and work in Canada, but I have Washington plates on my car. You can’t even imagine the dirty looks, the reaction, the social media comments.”

Some essential workers have recounted similar experiences. One commuter recounted how a middle-aged man in a gray souped-up Dodge Dart on June 17 roared up beside him on Highway 17 to repeatedly yell “Go f***ing home!” while shaking his fist.

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