Border shut ... except for about 200K per week
Even with travel fears, economic collapse and government restrictions there were still 201,866 border crossings from the United States into Canada in one week this month, according to the most recent data.
For Canadians watching the seemingly uncontrolled rise in COVID-19 cases raging south of the border, that seems alarming.
From the perspective of how different that is from the usual border flow, however, the number reveals how far border travel has dropped, like a fire hose shut off from a flood to a trickle. U.S. travel to Canada is still at dramatically low levels three months into dramatic pandemic restrictions.
From June 15 to 21, which is the most recent data available from Canada Border Services Agency, overall inbound travel at Canada’s international airports was down 96 per cent, compared with the same time period last year. At Canada’s land borders, total travel into Canada was down 86 per cent in the same comparison period.
On Sunday, June 21, for example, the most recent single day CBSA would provide data on, there were just 1,193 people arriving on flights from the United States. Last year, a comparable day saw 56,243 people on Canada-bound U.S. flights, a drop of 98 per cent.
On that same day, 6,175 people arrived in Canada from the United States by road, not including commercial truck drivers. Last year, a comparable day saw 216,972 crossings, a drop of 97 per cent. Not a single person arrived by rail.
Even cross-border commercial truck travel is down — by 11 per cent in the most recent weekly period — despite commercial shipments facing no unusual border restrictions under COVID-19 protocols.
Of all of the people coming into Canada from the United States from June 15 to June 21, most crossed at a land border point, which is typical in normal times as well.
In total, for the week from June 15 to June 21, there were 170,998 people coming into Canada at a land border crossing, and most of those were commercial truck drivers. The comparable period last year saw 1,217,845 people crossing. Of those land crossings, 104,247 were truck drivers. Under normal circumstances, other travellers outnumber truck drivers 10 to one.
The weekly border numbers have been fairly consistent, although slightly higher from the start of June. Land crossings are higher than they were at the end of March, but air travel is lower.
On March 16, Canada started restricting foreign nationals from entering Canada to slow the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the possible burden visitors might place on Canada’s health-care system during the pandemic. Travel across the Canada-U.S. border was given a pass at the time.
That changed March 21, when the Canada-U.S. border was mutually closed to non-essential travel in both directions. While allowing cross-border workers, health-care professionals and essential services workers, Canada says such travel into Canada must be “non-discretionary and non-optional” and does not include tourism, recreation or entertainment.
Canadian citizens, permanent residents and those registered under Canada’s Indian Act can always cross back into Canada, although they will need to quarantine for 14 days.
The border restrictions are in effect until July 21, but may be extended. A few things have eased a bit, however. Earlier this month, Justin Trudeau announced that family reunification of non-Canadians with Canadians would be easier.
“This is an incredibly difficult time to be apart from a spouse, a child, or mom or dad. We hear that. That’s why we are bringing in a limited exemption to allow immediate family members of citizens or permanent residents to come to Canada,” Trudeau said. Since then, there have been complaints of some common-law relationships not being recognized at the border.
Truck traffic moves into Canada from the U.S. in May, after a crackdown on non-essential travel to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus drastically reduced the number of border crossings.