PM Trudeau Rejects Calls To Open Canada-U.S. Border

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has rejected calls from business leaders and the tourism sector to reopen the border with the United States in time for the summer travel season.

Non-essential travel between the U.S. and Canada will be banned for another month despite mounting pressure from businesses to ease COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Justin Trudeau’s government announced an extension of the current border rules until at least July 21 in a tweet late Friday. The world’s longest undefended border has been closed to most travel since March 2020, when it was shut down to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Ottawa also said that restrictions on travel to other countries would also continue until late July but added that the Canadian government would begin to flesh out planned exemptions for fully vaccinated travelers beginning today (June 21).

The latest extension of the border closure comes as airlines, tour operators and other businesses plead with governments on both sides of the border to start reopening, with the vital summer season about to begin.

Trudeau, who is in quarantine after a trip to the United Kingdom and Brussels to attend international summits, provided some details about the government’s plan to ease restrictions.

Trudeau said the first phase is to allow fully vaccinated residents to upload proof of inoculation onto a mobile phone app that travelers are already required to use in order to enter the country. That will allow them certain exemptions to quarantine rules.

The second phase would include the creation of a national certification program that would be recognized around the world and allow Canadians to travel abroad.

The tourism industry has been one of the hardest hit sectors from the pandemic travel restrictions. The Canadian side of Niagara Falls, in Ontario, saw total visitors drop by half last year, and businesses are desperate not to lose another season.

Now that vaccines are being administered widely in both the U.S. and Canada, business groups are asking for a clear plan on how the border will reopen.

Vaccination rates are one of the key benchmarks Trudeau’s government is considering before allowing more non-essential travel. About 65% of Canadians have received their first dose vaccine, according to government data.

Canada’s decision to prioritize first doses, however, has created a gap on full vaccinations: about 45% of Americans have had two doses, compared to just 16% in Canada.