Thunder Bay

Northwestern Ontario border crossings to open for short trips with no testing requirement

For most Canadians, it's been nearly two years since they were able to easily cross the Canada-U.S. border to do a quick shopping run, or pick up some parcels.

Trips up to 72 hours no longer require PCR test

A close-up picture of a Canada Border Services Agency shoulder patch.
Canada Border Services Agency says it is ready for a potential uptick in traffic when Canada waives the need for a PCR test to re-enter the country, if doing a trip of less than 72 hours to the United States. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

For most Canadians, it's been nearly two years since they were able to easily cross the Canada-U.S. border to do a quick shopping run, or pick up some parcels.

Starting Tuesday, the requirement for travellers to have a negative PCR test to re-enter Canada has been relaxed, as long as that trip to the United States is under 72 hours.

The regulation changes have the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) ready to deal with an uptick in traffic at border crossings in northwestern Ontario, said Charles Fisher, the chief of operations for Thunder Bay and the Pigeon River Port of Entry.

Travellers though can do their part, Fisher said, as it'll be, "a different experience when they come back, so we hope that people will be patient with some of the additional processing that has to occur because of the pandemic."

"There's going to be some different and additional questions," Fisher said, noting the standard questions about duration of trip, any goods being brought back to Canada and duty exemptions will still be asked.

Fisher said those who come back into Canada need to be Canadian citizens, submit their arrival information through the ArriveCAN app, be double vaccinated and have the appropriate ID like a passport.

"Those are mandatory components to be exempted from quarantine," Fisher said, noting that if the ArriveCAN app is not filled out, travellers could be subject to fines as well as a 14-day quarantine.

Fisher said CBSA is expecting additional traffic starting Tuesday, however, each port of entry has different traffic patterns. Fort Frances is the busiest crossing in the northwest.

"You need to submit your information electronically in the ArriveCAN app, and also for your proof of vaccine, you need your physical copy of it, on your phone you have your document from the province, because the officer may still ask to take a look at that."

"All the old rules are still in place. What did you buy, what did you do."

"A random assortment of people will be provided with a take home COVID test that they will have to take. It's not every traveller, it's a random assortment of people coming across the border," Fisher said, noting those selected will get additional information on how to submit their COVID test. 

Good for business, seeing friends

When the United States first announced it would allow Canadians to enter for non-essential reasons, retailers on the American side of the border were excited with the prospect of increased business.

"For the business in general, obviously, financially, and the employees, and the people that we've had here," Jamie Spry, the manager at Ryden's Border Store said in mid-October. "We've all been on part-time, we've been making it by, and now, at least there's the opportunity to at least see some of it come back in."

Ryden's is a popular spot where customers from Thunder Bay ship their parcels. Spry said at the time the store and is associated garages and warehouses were full of packages being delivered over nearly two years. He said the border opening would allow for some space to be freed up, along with other packages to come in ahead of the Christmas rush.

People who live in the Fort Frances—International Falls area typically have family and friends on either side of the border, and frequently take short trips, even just to have dinner.

"It's a big part of our economy, but it's also the reunification of our communities," Tricia Heibel, the president of the International Falls Chamber of Commerce said recently.

"And, that's of greater importance."


  • A previous version of this story stated returning travellers must submit their arrival information to CBSA or through the ArriveCAN app. In fact, the only option is to submit travel information through the app.
    Dec 01, 2021 9:46 AM ET