By: Daniel DeWitt, 2L
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S.-Canada border has been closed to non-essential travel for more than a year. Since March of 2020, the border has been shut down and extended on a month-by-month basis, now through May 2021. The restrictions have made it difficult and costly for Canadians to return home by air travel. Recent regulations require travelers arriving in Canada by air to quarantine multiple days in a hotel at their own expense – costing them up to $2,000. The purpose of the hotel quarantine is to await the results of a COVID test upon arrival, but many Canadians consider it a needless step. Canadians who travel back across the border by land need only provide a negative COVID test to border patrol and can then quarantine at home rather than a hotel. This loophole has led many Canadians to fly to U.S. border cities like Buffalo, New York, and finish their journey home by land with the help of American transportation companies. Several transportation companies at airports in U.S. border cities have received a significant boost in business from Canadian travelers. The U.S. taxicab and limousine drivers are allowed to cross the border with Canadian ‘snowbirds’ because they are performing an essential service.
While Canadians have found more cost-effective ways to return home, the country may be facing its worst wave of the pandemic yet. With the number of cases rising, now may not be an opportune time to reopen the U.S. border.Canada is preparing to go through a tough stretch and tightening lockdown measures. Ontario, a province that has been hit especially hard, just extended its stay-at-home order until at least the middle of May. Having not successfully rolled out a vaccine before this most recent wave, Canada should be further restricting regional, interprovincial and international travel. It is unclear when the country will re-open its border, but when it does, there is a possibility that ‘vaccine passports’ may become a requirement for visitors. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not fully developed a plan but seems to be at least considering proof of vaccination methods. A recent poll from the Association for Canadian Studies and the Canadian Institute for Health Research at the University of Manitoba shows that just over half of Canadian respondents support showing proof of vaccination, while American respondents were less receptive to the idea. Proponents of proof of vaccination requirements are hopeful that with such restrictions in place, the border could fully re-open to non-essential travel by July.