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U.S. Canadian Border Remains Closed To Non-Essential Travel, Increasing Cross Border Complications

U.S. Canada border crossing at Champlain-LaColle
WAMC/Pat Bradley
U.S. Canada border crossing at Champlain-LaColle (file)

The border between Canada and the U.S. is staying closed to non-essential travelers for another month. The move places additional strain on border communities and businesses that rely on cross-border tourism and business.
Last Friday, Canada’s Minister of Public SafetyBill Blair tweeted “We are extending the reciprocal restrictions at the Canada-US border for another 30 days, till Sept. 21, 2020. We will continue to do what’s necessary to keep our communities safe.”  Given the coronavirus pandemic, the continued border closure is not unexpected, but it is a source of frustration for North Country Chamber President Garry Douglas.  “It’s become clear that both governments are basically committed without saying so to an extension of existing restrictions in both directions perhaps through the end of the year. I mean we’re heard unofficial rumblings from the Prime Minister’s office in Ottawa that that really is where their mindset is at. And so we are reluctantly encouraging our members and businesses to take that into consideration.”  

Numerous Canadian companies and manufacturers have facilities and offices in the North Country. Douglas says while commercial trucking traffic is still allowed, other sectors are being severely constrained by the closure and quarantine rules.  “We’re increasingly finding other bits of harm in the commercial relationship because key personnel in binational companies in our area who have a footprint on both sides of the border can’t have their personnel go back and forth and do meetings and inspections and visits like they normally would. You can’t further business relationships or construct new supply chain connections without doing a site visit, but you can’t do a site visit.”  

CDC Real Estate sells commercial properties and much of its business is to Canadian clients.  Broker Matt Boirer says Canadian businesses considering new expansion into the U.S. have slowed.  “In the past were they to think geesh it might be good for us to have a U.S. location, let’s start doing the research. They might come down five times or it might be twenty times over a period of a few months to maybe a year or two just to put the plans in place. But of course they just can’t make those trips down.”  

Colleges in Montreal and Quebec draw students from the North Country.  SUNY Plattsburgh Director of the Center for the Study of Canada and the Institute on Quebec Studies Chris Kirkey says students traveling north to study will face a mandatory quarantine.  “They would have to show up at the border. They would have to demonstrate that they have either been accepted in or have a letter from the university saying that they are a full time student. But once they cross the border they are subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine period. And frankly most universities in Canada are designating a certain residence for international students where they will have to physically stay. They can basically go out to use washroom facilities. But all their food has to be brought in to them. And when I say this is a mandatory the health authorities check on you every day.”

Anyone who brings students to Canada must also comply with Canadian quarantine rules and U.S. quarantine rules upon their return.  Kirkey says that’s among the reasons some are deciding to stay home and study remotely.  “We have a son who’s scheduled to go back for his senior year at Bishop’s University in Sherbrooke, Quebec. The question became very pertinent, very real for us.  We recognized that with the border being closed not only for himself but also for my wife and I to be able to bring him up and to quarantine for 14 days it just wasn’t a possibility. Fortunately he’s going to be able to take his classes on line at home.”

Essential travelers such as commercial truckers and health care workers are exempt from the border restrictions.