Canada’s bilateral proposals for fully vaccinated American visitors were unrequited Wednesday when the Department of Homeland Security formally extended its travel restrictions at the US-Canada border for at least the next 30 days.
DHS officials specifically cited the rampant spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19 as part of their decision, which includes Mexico, and vowed to continue to speak with Canada, where vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents will be welcomed beginning Sept. 9. of August. .
The department “is in constant contact with its Canadian and Mexican counterparts to identify the conditions under which the restrictions can be safely and sustainably relieved,” they said in a statement.
The decision was widely expected; Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said so on Monday when announcing the latest stage in Canada’s own plan to ease restrictions. Fully vaccinated Canadian citizens and permanent residents can now return; the rest of the world will follow in September.
But the absence of suspense did not appear to soften the blow for US lawmakers and travelers-turned-activists who vowed to increase pressure on the White House to follow the lead of its northern neighbor.
New York Rep. Brian Higgins, one of Congress’s staunchest critics of the border restrictions to date, called the US reluctance “incomprehensible” and “arbitrary” in light of what public health authorities say. on the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.
“It flies in direct conflict with what all of us on both sides of the border have been told for the past 16 months, and that is, ‘Follow the science,'” Higgins said at a news conference.
Even with the Delta variant, fully vaccinated people “still have a very, very high level of immunity to COVID or COVID, and that needs to be recognized.”
Maine’s Congressional delegation, Senators Angus King and Susan Collins, along with House Members Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden, also raised their voices Wednesday, expressing surprise at the decision and urging Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas , to reconsider.
“This continued border closure has a negative impact on our local economies and families,” they wrote, “so we urge you to develop an immediate plan to allow vaccinated Canadians to resume their travels to the United States.”
Border experts say the Biden administration is likely not ready to open the border between the United States and Mexico, given the refugee crisis there, and they fear a political setback if travel from Canada is allowed to advantage.
Despite Canada’s easing, the US adds 30 days to travel restrictions at the shared border. # COVID19 #USpoli #Border
There is also the additional element of whether the US, where only 57 percent of eligible Americans have received a full course of the COVID-19 vaccine, will make proof of vaccination a condition of entry. The White House has already made it clear that it does not support the requirement for vaccination credentials in the United States, a country famous for its fierce guardianship of personal freedoms.
Higgins said he cannot explain the decision: “I cannot tell you what their thinking is unless and until they communicate it.”
Meanwhile, White House press secretary Jen Psaki made it clear Wednesday that whatever decision is made will not be based on what Canada does.
“We rely on the guidance of our health and medical experts, not the actions of other countries.”
The advance notice from Homeland Security and US Customs and Border Protection of the extension, published Wednesday in the Federal Register, recognized “positive developments” in the fight against COVID-19, particularly regarding vaccination rates in both countries. .
But he said Mayorkas had determined that the risk of travel-related transmission continues to pose a “specific threat to human life or national interests.”
Allowing normal travel to resume “places personnel working at land ports of entry between the United States and Canada, as well as individuals traveling through these ports of entry, at increased risk of exposure to the virus associated with COVID -19, “he said. .
The decision was also greeted with anger north of the border.
The bilateral “roadmap” for a renewed cross-border partnership, issued by President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in February, promised a coordinated, science-based approach to reopening the border, said Perrin Beatty, President and CEO. . of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
“Less than five months later, Washington appears to have lost its copy,” Beatty said in a statement, noting the discrepancy in the United States’ approach: Americans can travel freely within its borders and air travel from Canada to the United States continues. Without restrictions.
“It is difficult to see how allowing fully vaccinated Canadians to enter the United States poses a threat to public health when travel within the United States is not restricted.”
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, who grew up in Windsor, Ontario, across the river from Detroit, said it is vital to follow the best public health guidelines, but also to come up with a coherent and detailed plan – something he says has been lost. of the discussion.
“There are many families where people have not been able to see their loved ones because they were unable to cross the border for a year and a half,” Singh told a news conference.
“This is important, that we get it right, and it’s important that people can start planning ahead.”
A recent online poll, conducted before the federal government’s announcement on Monday, suggests that Americans are on the side of Canada, even if Canadians themselves are not as enthusiastic.
The poll, conducted last week by Leger for the Association for Canadian Studies, found that 74 percent of 1,001 American respondents supported the full reopening of the borders by the end of August, compared to just 48 percent of their 1,529 counterparts. Canadians.
The professional body for the survey industry, the Canadian Research Insights Council, says that online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.
John Adams, a Florida resident who owns vacation property on Vancouver Island, has been funding a cross-border TV and internet ad campaign against the two governments in recent weeks to convince them to lower the barriers.
Adams, who called the extension a “foolish decision on the part of the Biden administration,” said he now has his sights fixed on the White House with a new announcement to be completed by the end of the week.
The ad accuses Biden of “taking Canadian citizens hostage” and acting out of fear, and warns of the risk of an economic downturn if travel is not allowed to resume soon.
This Canadian Press report was first published on July 21, 2021.