At long last, Canada will allow U.S. citizens and permanent residents to enter Canada for non-essential purposes beginning August 9. The U.S., which had earlier appeared willing to open its border as early as June 22, extended its closure order until at least August 21, 519 days since the border was first closed.
As usual, the announcement left many people scratching their heads wondering how it would affect them personally. Travelers entering Canada for non-essential travel will need to be fully vaccinated with one of Canada’s approved vaccines, present a negative molecular Covid-19 test result taken within 72 hours before their arrival and have proof of vaccination uploaded to the ArriveCAN app. They may or may not be asked to take another test at the border. They will also need to present a quarantine plan and be prepared to quarantine should they not satisfy all of the conditions required to be exempt.
What isn’t clear is, how does this apply to U.S. residents who are merely seeking to enter Canada for a day trip? And, up to now, U.S. residents who lived on the mainland and wanted to transit Canada to come to Point Roberts were denied entry unless they satisfied a vague and seemingly subjective description of essential travel. Presumably, they will need to satisfy Canadian requirements for both legs of their travel to and from Point Roberts. Under these conditions, it will be unrealistic to expect a significant increase in visits to the Point by non-residents.
If they thought their workaround would be to take the ferry from Bellingham to the Point, another think is in order. The Port of Bellingham issued a press release on July 22 saying the service would be shut down after its last sailing on August 12. In a July 21 email, the All Point Bulletin asked port executive director Rob Fix if the port had any knowledge of how the Canadian border authorities (CBSA) were going to regulate traffic to and from Point Roberts, both by Point residents and those from the mainland.
The email concluded by saying that residents would be “curious to know the basis of the port’s decision to cancel the ferry service before the border was fully opened.” Fix replied on July 29 and explained the delay as due to the All Point Bulletin’s email having been blocked by the Port’s spam filter.
Fix said commissioners had instructed staff to provide emergency, temporary ferry service after it became aware of the transportation challenges facing Point Roberts residents. The Port had only intended to offer the service until the Canadian border opened to non-essential traffic which it will on August 9.
Fix added, “After a year of service with over 5,000 passengers on over 370 ferry runs, I am proud of the work the Port has done and the community we were able to serve in Point Roberts. If conditions change and Point Roberts residents are once again unable to cross the U.S./Canada land border and enter the mainland US, the Port stands ready to step up and help your community.”
The failure of the U.S. federal government to at least match the Canadian’s decision to allow fully vaccinated residents to enter the country was met with widespread criticism by politicians and citizens alike. In a statement issued July 22, governor Jay Inslee said, “I am extremely disappointed by the federal government’s announcement today that the U.S. border with Canada will remain closed through at least August 21. This continued closure will result in continued hardship for Washingtonians living in border communities, including in Point Roberts.
“As I have expressed repeatedly in communications with the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, the time has come to at least partially reopen the U.S.-Canada border, and I will continue to advocate for relief for border communities in Washington state.”
Congresswoman Suzan DelBene was scathing in her reaction. “I am deeply disappointed in the Biden administration’s decision to unilaterally extend the Canada-U.S. border closure another month,” she said. This action is short-sighted and devastating to our border communities. Businesses and families in Whatcom County, particularly in Point Roberts, were praying this was the month the border would reopen. Continuing the border closure all but ensures more businesses will close and more livelihoods will be destroyed along the border.
“Right now, Canadians can fly from Vancouver to Seattle but residents in the border town of White Rock cannot drive the short distance south across the border to Blaine. Instead of helping them build back better, we’re putting our border communities at a significant disadvantage. Canada on the other hand is showing leadership by announcing it will begin easing border restrictions for fully vaccinated Americans traveling north on August 9 and providing firm benchmarks and metrics behind their decision.
“It’s time for the U.S. to reopen the Canada-U.S. border,” DelBene concluded.
News of a possible strike by Canadian border guards has given rise to fears of chaos and backups at border crossings.
Over 8,500 Canada Border Services Agency workers have voted in favor of a strike after going without a contract for over three years. Strike action could begin as early as August 6, just three days before Canada opens up its borders for fully vaccinated Americans and permanent residents.
The union warns that the labor dispute could cause major disruption at border crossings. However, a CBSA spokesperson said 90 percent of front-line border officers have been declared “essential” and will stay on the job.