Trudeau addresses Canada-U.S. border separations, urges Canadians to remain vigilant amid COVID-19
PM said border closure is 'difficult' for separated families but priority is to control COVID-19 spread
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has addressed the subject of families separated by ongoing COVID-19 restrictions due to the closure of the Canada-U.S. border to non-essential travel.
Speaking during his daily briefing to reporters Friday, Trudeau said the government is aware "that Canadians are facing extremely difficult situations because of COVID-19."
"Families are stretched across the country and unable to see each other, people are stuck overseas and despite the hundreds of repatriation flights we've brought, there are others who simply can't come home," he said. "This is a difficult situation."
Trudeau added that the priority is to control the spread of COVID-19, and prevent its "importation from other countries."
WATCH | Trudeau questioned about border agents stopping family reunification:
"I know it's difficult on Canadians, but we need to continue to be very careful, because if we take a wrong step in the coming weeks, everything we've sacrificed over the past two months could be for nothing if we see another massive surge of COVID-19," he said.
When asked a follow-up question about whether immediate family members in the U.S. should go to the border to attempt to gain entry into Canada, Trudeau said that rules have been established to protect Canadians.
"They need to be respected, because we have to keep Canadians safe. We have to control the spread and we will be doing that."
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland addressed border separations during Friday's daily COVID-19 briefing on Parliament Hill, saying that border agents have been placed in a "unique situation."
WATCH | Freeland questioned about border rules for family reunification:
"Let's remember we are living in a time of physical distancing here at home, where we're encouraging everyone … in Canada to move around as little as possible," Freeland said.
"At the same time [border agents] have the job of ensuring that essential travel can happen, so it's a lot of very difficult, very specific decisions the border agents have to make."
Freeland said the government is encouraging border agents to take a compassionate approach where possible.
"Where families are having specific difficulties, I encourage them to get in touch with us, to get in touch with their local MPs, and on a case-by-case basis, we can definitely look at what's happening."
CBSA issues travel reminder ahead of holiday
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) issued a reminder to travellers on Friday that COVID-19 restrictions barring non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border remain in place, despite the upcoming Victoria Day long weekend holiday.
"All travel of an optional or discretionary nature, including tourism, recreation and entertainment, is covered by these measures across all ports of entry in all modes of transportation — land, marine, air and rail," the CBSA wrote in a Friday media release.
The federal border agency also reminded boaters that "crossing the border for recreation or tourism purposes is currently prohibited."
The border restrictions between Canada and the U.S. were agreed upon by leaders of both countries in late March. A 30-day extension was agreed on in April, and the restrictions are currently set to expire on May 21.
During briefing earlier this week, Trudeau hinted that Canada is no rush to ease the restrictions.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, as well as a number of border city mayors across Ontario — including Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley — have said they want restrictions to remain in place while communities on both sides of the border attempt to bring COVID-19 under control.
With files from Chris Rand