U.S. has dropped idea of placing troops near Canadian border: official

The United States has dropped its controversial proposal to station American troops near the shared border as part of its COVID-19 containment strategy.
The Canadian and American flags are seen on top of the Peace Arch at the Canada-U.S. border in Surrey, B.C. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

The United States has dropped its controversial proposal to station American troops near the shared border as part of its COVID-19 containment strategy.

A U.S. Department of Defense official, speaking on background, said the Department of Homeland Security is no longer seeking reinforcements along the northern border.

"As of last night, that is no longer under consideration," they said.

Canadian officials publicly voiced their opposition late last week after sources began leaking information about the proposal.

"This is an entirely unnecessary step, which we would view as damaging to our relationship," said Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland Thursday morning.

"Canada is strongly opposed to this U.S. proposal and we've made that opposition very, very clear to our American counterparts."

A Canadian source said the American side is no longer talking about the plan and the federal government is comfortable it's off the table, "for now at least."

Last week, sources said the White House was looking at placing 1,000 troops about 25 to 30 kilometres from the 8,891-kilometre-long border and using remote sensors to look out for irregular border-crossers.

The soldiers would be tasked with watching for people crossing between ports of entry who could be carrying the virus that causes COVID-19, and reporting such people to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials, sources said.

President Donald Trump was asked about the possibility of sending reinforcements to the northern border during a press conference Thursday evening.

"We have very strong deployments on the southern border, with Mexico. We had some troops up in Canada. But I'll find out about that," he said, before suddenly launching into a tangent on steel tariffs.

That night, the Wall Street Journal cited a source saying that Trump was going to drop the proposal, but Canadian officials said the talks still continued into Friday.

The two countries already have a mutual ban in place on non-essential travel across the border, which includes trips for recreational purposes.

With files from Katie Simpson

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