Canada-U.S. border closure to be extended beyond June 21, sources say
Both countries say current deal to reduce COVID-19 spread is working well
The Canada-U.S. border closure to all non-essential traffic will be extended beyond the June 21 date set last month, sources tell CBC News.
Sources with direct knowledge of the situation have confirmed to CBC News that Canada and the United States are holding talks about extending the border restrictions but the agreement has yet to be signed.
Both countries reached an agreement in March to temporarily close the border to non-essential travel — meaning no recreational visits — while keeping it open to commercial traffic and essential workers who cross the border for work.
The deal extension was first reported by Reuters on Tuesday.
It is unclear how long the border restrictions will be extended. The initial agreement was extended in April by 30 days until May 21, before being extended for another 30 days last month.
During a daily briefing by ministers and federal public health officials on Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said the current arrangement with the United States is "working very well" and conversations are happening daily between the two governments.
Watch | 'It is working very well': Freeland on Canada-U.S. border closure
Some family members allowed to cross
On Monday, the federal government announced Canada will begin allowing some family members separated by temporary COVID-19 travel restrictions to cross the border into the country.
"We are bringing in a limited exemption to allow immediate family members of citizens or permanent residents to come to Canada," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday. "This is an incredibly difficult time to be apart from a spouse, a child, or mom or dad."
Anyone who enters the country will have to self-quarantine for 14 days, and failure to follow the rules could result in "serious penalties" Trudeau said.
Those changes kicked in at midnight on Monday and they apply to foreign nationals who are immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents and who do not have COVID-19 or are showing any signs or symptoms of the coronavirus, "or who do not have reason to believe they have COVID-19."
A number of stories have emerged in the past few weeks of families stuck on opposite sides of the border, including expectant parents.
Through this exemption, the government is defining an immediate family member as someone's:
- Spouse or common-law partner.
- Dependent child.
- Parent or step-parent or the parent or step-parent of the person's spouse or common-law partner.
- Guardian or tutor.
More than 110,000 people have died of the coronavirus in the United States, one of the world's worst-hit nations. Canada reported 7,835 deaths and 96,244 coronavirus cases on June 9.
Extending the measures would hurt Canadian airlines and the tourism industry.
Carriers, including Air Canada, have been hit hard as travel bans resulted in thousands of flight cancellations, forcing carriers to cut jobs and costs.
"There is a push from some sectors for reopening (the border), like Air Canada," a Canadian government source said.
Asked about reopening the border, Air Canada said in a statement that governments around the world are relaxing restrictions and it was working with tourism and industry groups to "streamline and clarify rules around travel."
With files from Kathleen Harris