Canadians plead with government to reopen border with Minnesota

Resorts and residents in Canada have joined northern Minnesota businesses and families in pleading with the Canadian government to get with it, put the pandemic behind them and reopen the border ASAP. Despite the relaxation of restrictions in the U.S. weeks ago, the Canadian government remains indifferent to both the undeniable progress against the pandemic and increasingly desperate economic plight of families and businesses that depend on cross border business to make it.

Their plight came through loud and clear in a recent media call covered by the News Tribune:

Hundreds of Ontario tourism businesses — resorts, lodges and fly-in fishing camps — face financial disaster if the U.S.-Canada border doesn’t open this summer.

That was the message from several Ontario tourism business owners recently who held a video news conference essentially begging their government to allow vaccinated U.S. residents to come north to fish and play, to reopen the border that’s been closed for nearly 16 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need the border open as soon as possible or we won’t be here,” said Ryan Runge, owner of Slate Falls Outposts near Sioux Lookout, Ontario. “We need a plan to fully reopen the border so our businesses can survive. … Vaccinated Americans should be allowed to cross the border on July 22 with a full plan in place (from the Canadian government) well before that.”

The Canadian government has set an arbitrary vaccination rate of 75 percent of the population in order to resume normal relations. But as of July 1, America’s northern neighbor was only about halfway toward meeting that goal.

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So even as the impact of the coronavirus wanes, the outlook for resorts and businesses dependent on Minnesotans and residents of other states grows more dire.

More than 1 million U.S. residents visit northwestern Ontario each year, spending more than a half-billion dollars, said Laurie Marcil, executive director of Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario. She said many lodge owners have spent down their life savings to stay afloat during the pandemic and that members of the group on average have taken on an added $100,000 in debt.

In some areas of northwestern Ontario far from Canadian population centers, namely the region directly north of Minnesota, some businesses have lost 100% of their income, with virtually all their customers from the U.S.

“Many of these businesses have not had any revenue since 2019,” Marcil said.

Meantime there’s no indication the Biden administration has prioritized reopening the border with Canada leading up to the next review of the standoff between the governments on July 21.

So far, the governments of both nations have simply extended the monthly closure each month — 15 times — with no publicly apparent plan for when and how the border might reopen. The border remains closed through at least July 21. While there has been widespread speculation that a border reopening is near, the lodge owners fear their government will simply extend the closure to Aug. 21, a move that would kill most of their 2021 season.

“The lack of a long-term plan by the government (to reopen the border) really makes me feel like I’m dying a slow death,’’ said Carol Anniuk, owner of Young’s Wilderness Camps on Lake of the Woods near Nestor Falls, Ontario. “We need the border open now. … We can’t live in a bubble forever.”