B.C. health officials adamant Canada-U.S. border should remain closed to visitors
3,000 non-essential travellers have been denied entry into Canada from the U.S. since March
B.C. health officials are adamant the Canada-U.S. border should not reopen to visitors anytime soon as the clock ticks down on the agreement currently banning non-essential travel set to expire May 21.
Canadian and American officials are in ongoing talks over an expected increase in cross-border travel as economies begin to restart.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says traffic over the shared border is bound to increase as states and provinces reopen shuttered businesses, even if the Canada-U.S. ban on non-essential travel remains unchanged.
But those discussions are being met with growing calls from the provinces not to open up the flow of tourists across the line.
"Absolutely, we have concerns about opening the border," said B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
Speaking to reporters during the province's daily COVID-19 news briefing, she acknowledged there is room for leeway with some exceptions aside from tourists.
"We need to look at family reunification, for example; I know it has been very hard on some families who have members on either side of the border," she said. "But broad reopening of the borders is not in our best interest in the coming weeks."
It is our view that the [U.S.] border should not open to visitors at this time.- B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix agreed that, for now, only essential travel should be allowed.
"It would make no sense to have visitors travelling either from Canada to the United States and returning — or to have visitors, not essential traffic, but visitors — coming from the United States to Canada," he said.
Dix said he'll continue appealing to his federal counterpart to keep it that way for the foreseeable future.
"The premier has also repeatedly made this point to the prime minister: it's our view that the border should not open to visitors at this time," Dix said, adding he would address it again at the next health ministers meeting.
He noted the success of B.C.'s move to enforce the federal Quarantine Act by following up with tens of thousands of returning travellers to ensure they're complying with self-isolation orders.
B.C.'s pushback mirrors that of other provinces like Quebec and Ontario, where Premier Doug Ford has said screening at airports and border crossings would need to increase "tenfold" if restrictions are lifted.
Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee's office told CBC News there have been discussions but no final recommendations regarding a possible timeline on the lifting of non-essential travel between B.C. and Washington state.
Thousands denied entry
The latest statistics from the Canada Border Service Agency reveal nearly 3,000 foreign nationals were denied entry into Canada from the U.S. between March 22 and May 3 because their purpose for travel was non-essential.
Nearly nine in 10 of them were U.S. citizens, who said they wanted to cross the border for discretionary purposes such as hiking, boating, opening a seasonal residence, attending a birthday party or picking up a pet.
The numbers also reveal a sharp decrease in traffic. During the week of April 27, volumes were down 88 per cent at land crossings and 98 per cent at airports compared to the same time a year ago.
On the week of May 3 alone, passengers arriving on flights from the U.S. were down 99 per cent and international air travellers were down 97 per cent, compared to the same time period last year.
All travellers entering Canada from abroad are required to present self-isolation plans to authorities upon arrival. More than 100 in B.C. did not have sufficient quarantine plans and have been placed in various hotels by the government.