Canada-U.S. Land crossings were closed in March 2020 to non-essential travel in an effort to slow the spread of Covid-19.
“We’re very committed to this,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a Senate committee this week when he insisted on how long he expected the border with Canada to remain closed to non-American travelers. essential. “I have had several conversations with my Canadian counterpart on this subject. We understand, in particular, our fellow citizens who live in border states the difficulties, the challenges that this has presented. “
Biden-Trudeau face to face: Border talks will get another boost at the G-7 this week, where Canadian officials say Trudeau and Biden should discuss the issue.
“They will be looking at what makes sense for each country,” another senior Canadian official told POLITICO earlier this week of the planned conversation. “There are already very active discussions going on on either side of the border and there is a commitment in the roadmap to be coordinated around the border. Frankly, this is all moving pretty quickly. “
Since the border measures were first imposed, countries have renewed a monthly bilateral agreement to keep them in place. The next deal expires on June 21.
Pressure: Lawmakers like Rep. Elise Stefanik (RN.Y.) have urged the Biden administration to start unilaterally lifting border restrictions if it cannot strike a reopening deal with Canada by June 21.
There has been no sign that either government would be willing to go it alone.
Biden and Trudeau released a bilateral “road map” in February which, among its dozens of commitments, pledged that the two leaders “agreed to take a coordinated approach based on science and public health criteria. when considering measures to ease restrictions on the Canada-U.S. border in the future. . “
Public health restrictions have had economic and social consequences. The closures have hurt struggling tourism industries along the border and loved ones who have been separated for more than a year.
On Monday, the mayors of two Canadian border towns told POLITICO that Public Safety Minister Bill Blair signaled that the Trudeau government could start easing border restrictions on June 22 if the country’s vaccination campaign stays on track. current trajectory.
Canada’s step-by-step approach: Earlier Wednesday, Canada announced that it was working on a system to lift the 14-day quarantine requirement, which includes a mandatory hotel stay, for its returning residents and other authorized travelers.
“The general stage is the first week of July,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu told reporters, a date designed to allow time for talks with provinces and federal authorities to prepare.
Asked about delays for tourists and businessmen, Hajdu said the Trudeau government was looking at measures “less data driven and more disease activity focused.”
“It’s really about making sure we can see this trajectory of fewer sick people, fewer hospitalizations, more capacity in the provinces and territories to handle any epidemic and a confidence that the vaccine coverage here in Canada. is going well, ”she said.
The “goal posts”: Trudeau said before the country begins to ease public health restrictions – including those at the border – at least 75% of the Canadian population should have their first doses of the Covid vaccine and 20% should be fully vaccinated.
Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam told the same press conference that Canada is on track to meet the 75-20 target by the first week of July. Tam added that it is not clear when the country will reach its second “goal post” of having 75 percent of its population fully immunized.
Howard Njoo, deputy chief public health officer for Canada, said when it comes to decisions about easing restrictions, authorities aren’t just monitoring immunization coverage. He said officials are monitoring things like variants, community transmission and the burden on the health care system.
“This is why we keep saying that you cannot abandon public health measures, both at the individual level and at the population level as the vaccine rollout continues to unfold across the country. “