Hockey fans rejoiced last Sunday when Canadian health officials agreed to let National Hockey League teams cross the Canada-U.S. Border for the Stanley Cup playoffs. It wasn’t a big surprise; the Montreal Canadiens look good and are set to take the Cup north for the first time since they last won it in 1993.
However, I still cannot enter Canada, at least until June 21. My case may not be as compelling as the NHL’s, but a neighbor on Lake Laurentian where we have a cabin called last week to say a tree had broken and a branch was threatening to crush a shed where I stored a lot of important things. And the municipality says it’s time to empty the septic tanks. And I can say that I am less of a threat to public health than a plane full of hockey players; I received my second Pfizer vaccine over four months ago and have consistently tested negative for the coronavirus. And I really want to go.
My family has spent summers and some winters in the Laurentians for almost 70 years. It’s a lot of time, a lot of property and school taxes and a lot of money poured into keeping our cabins more or less upright. (The cottage, economists will confirm, was invented to support local economies.) More importantly, it’s a lot of good friends and deep roots. I can even swear like a French Canadian, which is important there.
Lots of people have it much worse. Many people who live along the 5,525-mile border, the longest in the world, have shaped their lives by crossing it without a second thought, often to visit close relatives on the other side. With the border closed, family visits and even weddings have been postponed, often month to month.
There are a lot of rumors going around that Canadians may soon be relaxing the regulations, at least for Americans who have been fully immunized. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he will wait until 75% of Canadians have received at least one dose of the Covid vaccine before opening the border, which, at the current rate, could be in July. This week, he said his government was working on a gradual easing of border restrictions but still did not give a date.
Pressure has grown to open the border now, at least to fully immunized travelers, both Americans and Canadians who fear losing another summer’s worth of US tourist dollars. A group of experts convened by Ottawa recently advised the government to start distinguishing between vaccinated and unvaccinated at the border. In the United States, politicians along the northern border – including Representative Elise Stefanik, a Republican from upstate New York who has become a major Trumpian voice in Congress – have called on the Biden administration to begin unilaterally relax these border restrictions.
Imposing certain safeguards, like proof of vaccination and up-to-date negative coronavirus tests, is fine, although cards issued for vaccination are pathetically easy to copy and vaccine passports are only available in a handful of places. States.
What’s infuriating since the border was first closed on March 21, 2020 – by consent between Canada and the United States – is that the closure has been renewed month to month, apparently without much discussion. on the conditions that would allow the doors to be reopened. Commercial traffic has never been blocked, reflecting the fact that at least before the pandemic some $ 1.6 billion in goods crossed the border daily, but almost all other types – including in particular owner travel. – were banned because they were not essential.
There is no doubt that closing the border was the right thing to do then. Every country was scrambling to control the highly contagious coronavirus, and the United States under the Trump administration was doing a particularly lousy job with it. Moreover, it is easy to imagine that Mr. Trudeau took additional pleasure in blocking travel from a country whose rude president had called him “very dishonest and weak” and had done everything possible to. to humiliate and demean Canada, in effect using national security to slap punitive tariffs on Canadian aluminum and steel. These things are not easily forgiven or forgotten; just watch Mr. Trudeau’s YouTube clip taking 21 seconds to answer a question about Mr. Trump in June 2020.
There was something of that aggrieved tone in Mr. Trudeau’s recent response to border questions, as well as a politician’s awareness that the border closure has been extremely popular with Canadians, at least in part by despite their treatment under the last administration. “We are on the right track, but we will make our decisions based on the interests of Canadians and not on what other countries want,” he said last week.
Regardless of how Washington has handled the Covid-19 epidemic, more than half of Americans over 18 have been fully immunized, including more than three-quarters of seniors like me. Canada is far behind. While 68 percent of people over 18 received a dose, only 7 percent were fully immunized. And there is now a normal administration in Washington. No, President Biden unfortunately didn’t lift Trump tariffs, and he killed the Keystone XL pipeline, and he puts a lot of emphasis on “Buy American.” But these are the kind of competitive differences that have always existed between North American neighbors, and putting trade disputes into normal channels – without the offensive bullying of the Trump years – is all the more reason to reopen the border.
Believe me: Americans who regularly travel to the true North Strong and Free are the ones you want as neighbors and friends.