Is love non-essential? Windsor-Detroit couple readies for border restrictions

With stricter border-crossing rules coming into play Friday at midnight, one Canada-U.S. couple is wondering how long it will be before they can see each other again. 

Liz Girard lives in Windsor, Ont., and her partner of 7 years, Mike Lefrancois, lives in Detroit

On opposite sides of the Canada-U.S. border, Liz Girard and Mike Lefrancois might not see each other for a while, as the borders close to non-essential travel to help stop the spread of COVID-19. (Submitted by Mike Lefrancois)

To many people living in the Windsor, Ont., area, the Canada-U.S. border is little more than an imaginary line. They cross it routinely for work, shopping, appointments, entertainment — or to see loved ones. 

But with stricter crossing rules coming into play Friday at midnight amid the growing COVID-19 pandemic, one Canada-U.S. couple is wondering how long it will be before they can see each other again. 

"It's probably going to be a month and we're not going to see each other. iPad and FaceTime is all we're going to get for now," said Liz Girard, who lives in Windsor. "I'm not too happy about that — it's kind of my vacation home up there."

Girard's partner of seven years, Mike Lefrancois, lives and works in Metro Detroit. The two usually spend weekends together. But this past weekend, Lefrancois said something unusual happened to him as he was returning to Michigan. 

LISTEN | Hear from Girard and Lefrancois on CBC Radio's Windsor Morning:

"I crossed the border on Monday morning with the regular commuter traffic … I pull up and something was a little bit off," said Lefrancois, who has a NEXUS card, a program that allows him to pass quickly through customs.

"[The border officer] opens the window and asks me where I was, and I told him. He started talking about restricted travel and essential travel only. He suggested if I want to come back to Michigan, I should just stay in Michigan and not cross back again.

"I told him, 'No one has said anything on the news.' And I went to their website and there was nothing.

"We had a two-day head start as to what was going to happen."

An agreement to close the Canada-U.S. border to all non-essential travel will go into effect at midnight on Friday. The border will also remain open for trade and commerce to ensure a stable supply chain of goods.

The unprecedented move comes as both countries try to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has infected thousands around the world and disrupted economies.

According to a statement from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the agreement will allow people to cross the border for medical purposes and to attend educational institutions or work, and includes exemptions for emergency response and public health purposes.

Diplomats, others travelling on government business and military members will also be exempt from the travel restrictions.

"I actually took today off two weeks ago so I could go up there and have a long weekend — and now that's not happening," said Girard. "A lot of phone conversations and FaceTiming. That's all we're going to have."

It's currently unclear when the U.S.-Canada border may reopen to non-essential travel.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now