Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the Canada/U.S. border closure to non-essential travel would be extended another 30 days until June 21. “This is an important decision that will protect people on both sides of the border,” he said during a 11 a.m. press conference in Ottawa on May 19. The extension was a mutual decision by both governments.
It is likely that the closure will extend past June into July and possibly much longer. Sources on the local Border Task Force believe the closure will go at least past the July 1 and 4 holidays. B.C. Premier John Horgan has said he’s against the border opening up anytime soon, a sentiment also expressed by other provincial leaders across Canada.
A poll undertaken by the Association of Canadian Studies (ACS) found 47 percent of Canadians believe the closure should extend until the end of the year. The B.C. Ministry of Tourism on May 25 announced $10 million in grants would be awarded to tourist agencies to promote in-B.C. travel to residents, pointing out that B.C. residents spend about $6.4 billion annually on international travel.
Trudeau said the desire of provincial leaders to keep the borders closed was instrumental behind the extension. The U.S. has been much harder hit by the pandemic than Canada. For example, as of May 26, B.C. has had a total of 2,541 cases and 161 deaths for a death rate of 6.3 percent.
Washington state, on the other hand, has, for the same date, a total of 20,406 cases and 1,095 deaths for a death rate of 5.4 percent. There have been 335,801 tests performed.
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.
Interestingly, the prohibition against non-essential travel only applies to vehicle, train and marine travel across the border. It does not apply to travel by air. There are three flights a day from YVR to Seattle and one to Dallas. Individuals have used air travel to join up with family members in Washington state and elsewhere.
In normal times, approximately 75 percent of border crossings are made by Canadians traveling to and from the U.S., meaning local businesses in Whatcom County and elsewhere have been hard hit by the lack of traffic.