Canada puts off reopening border for at least another month

There goes the second summer tourist season in a row for Minnesota and Canadian businesses along the border. The news comes as a crushing blow to the thousands whose livelihoods depend on cross-border traffic. But Canadian officials, along with U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., still tried to put a positive spin on it, according to the Grand Forks Herald.

“I have been working with both Canadian and U.S. officials about the need to safely reduce border restrictions as soon as possible, and Prime Minister Trudeau’s comments make clear that cross-border travel between our two countries will soon be back to normal,” said Klobuchar.

The letdown comes as resorts, businesses and families were anticipating a possible breakthrough on July 21, the next scheduled update on the border reopening from the Canadian and U.S. governments. But no such luck.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said fully vaccinated Americans could be allowed into the country for nonessential travel, beginning in mid-August. Trudeau, speaking with provincial and territorial leaders, said rising vaccination rates and improving public health conditions are behind the move.

According to a Thursday news release from Trudeau’s office, “first ministers expressed their support of reopening plans, and agreed on the importance of ensuring clarity and predictability as initial steps are taken.”

Not only will the border remain off-limits for at least another month — a careful reading of the announcement makes it clear there’s no guarantee life will return to normal then. This despite the dire predicament of resorts and outfitters, in addition to the businesses that rely on them.

“Even one month out of the 12 in a year, that would be huge for us,” said Simon Resch, owner of the duty-free store just north of the Pembina border crossing. “Absolutely enormous.”

Still, Resch is concerned about requirements such as testing for the virus, and wanted clarity about other restrictions, such as quarantining, for visiting Americans. Earlier this month, the Canadian government eased such restrictions on Canadians returning home.

The pressure from U.S. lawmakers appears to have fallen on deaf ears not only in Ottawa, but in Washington as well.

Federal lawmakers around the region have been calling on the Canadian government to fully reopen the border.

“The punitive border restrictions affect not just American citizens, but also Canadians living near the border. Inaction and indifference by our two governments are no longer options,” U.S. Rep. Michelle Fischbach, R-Minn., said in a statement previously emailed to the Herald.

The clampdown continues despite the Canadians’ high vaccination rate for COVID. All of which begs the question: what will it take to convince the leaders of the two countries to listen to their people and put the pandemic in perspective?