The Current

As U.S. suspends EU travel, Freeland won't answer 'hypothetical questions' about Canada following suit

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says Canada is "constantly looking at all the measures we are taking to keep Canadians safe and healthy, including border measures."

No 'crystal ball' to assess what happens next, but decisions would be guided by evidence: Freeland

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says Canada is 'constantly looking at all the measures we are taking to keep Canadians safe and healthy, including border measures.' (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

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Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to restrict travel to Europe was "unilateral and done without consultation," but wouldn't be drawn on whether Canada will follow suit. 

"I have a policy of never answering hypothetical questions. But let me just say, we are looking carefully at all scenarios and we are in close contact with our American partners," she told The Current's Matt Galloway.

She added it's not the case that Canada "automatically does what our American neighbours do."

"American leaders take the decisions that they think are right for the United States. Canadian leaders take the decisions that we think are right for Canada."

On Wednesday, Trump announced a 30-day suspension of travel between the U.S. and the 26 countries in Europe's Schengen zone, an agreement that allows passport-free travel. The restrictions announced don't apply to the United Kingdom, where the number of confirmed cases has reached 460, or Ireland, which has 43 cases but isn't part of Schengen.

U.S. President Donald Trump announces the ban on all travel to the United States from the European Union. 2:00

The EU has criticized the ban, calling the coronavirus outbreak "a global crisis" that requires international co-operation.

Upon hearing the news, Freeland says she immediately reached out to Kirsten Hillman, Canada's acting ambassador to the U.S., and that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and cabinet members would be contacting their U.S. counterparts Thursday.

Freeland says it is important to bear in mind that 400,000 people cross Canada's land border with the U.S. every day, and it represents "a crucial sort of social connection, a critical economic connection."

"We are very, very closely intertwined with our neighbours and they are intertwined with us," she said.

Deputy PM Chrystia Freeland says Canada 'constantly reviewing' border policy, won't predict what happens next. 2:46

The Canada Border Services Agency has implemented enhanced screening measures at arrival points to Canada. Those include asking international travellers some additional health-related questions, and referring travellers with flu-like symptoms to Public Health Agency of Canada staff for further screening.

Hand sanitizer, gloves, masks and eye protection have been made available to CBSA staff.

"We do have measures in place right now for heightened monitoring of travellers coming from areas where there has been more of a coronavirus outbreak," she told Galloway.

Given the pace at which the outbreak is evolving, Freeland says she doesn't have a "crystal ball" to assess what happens next, but decisions would be guided by evidence.

"We in Canada believe in science. We believe in listening to experts, to medical experts," she said. "In all of our health and safety measures, we are going to be guided by the best scientific advice, which is what we have been doing thus far."


Written by Padraig Moran. Produced by Julie Crysler.

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