Border cities 'left behind' from pandemic recovery, say leaders seeking end to restrictions

A group of MPs and border-city mayors is calling on the Canadian and U.S. governments to lift COVID-19 restrictions at the border.

Group of MPs, border-city mayors call on Canada, U.S. to lift requirements

The Ambassador Bridge between Windsor, Ont., and Detroit is shown. Canada-U.S. border mayors and politicians have issued a letter to leaders of both countries, asking for COVID-19 restrictions to be lifted at the border. (Annie Barker/Detroit Free Press via AP)

A group of MPs and border-city mayors is calling on the Canadian and U.S. governments to lift COVID-19 restrictions at the border.

On Tuesday, they published an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden that asks them to remove the "unnecessary" rules at the border, which they say would allow border communities to recover from the pandemic.

"When COVID-19 was at its peak and border measures were effective at slowing transmission rates, we did our part to keep Canadians and Americans safe," the letter states. "Now, we have been left behind in the recovery effort as both countries have largely returned to normal daily life."

The letter says the current restrictions are "no longer meaningful or helpful" from a health perspective and cause harm to border communities and businesses.

The letter was signed by the mayors of 15 border communities in Canada, including Drew Dilkens of Windsor, Ont., plus seven mayors in the U.S. and 16 MPs.

All but one of the MPs — Brian Masse, NDP MP for Windsor West — are members of the Conservative Party.

The letter echoes longstanding calls from mayors, MPs as well as the business community to loosen border measures intended to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Though not mentioned explicitly in Tuesday's letter, the ArriveCAN pre-screening tool for travellers has been the focus of much of the criticism.

Canada requires travellers to use ArriveCAN to declare their vaccination status and travel plans. COVID-19 vaccination requirements are also in effect on both sides of the border.

Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra has defended ArriveCAN, saying more delays would occur at border crossings if it was not a requirement.

Alghabra said the app and the requirement to be vaccinated to cross to enter Canada makes the process more efficient.

"Without it, the process of verification would be manual and it would be much more complicated and it would take a much longer time," he said during an appearance in Windsor last month.

With files from Jason Viau

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