Bor­der shut ... ex­cept for about 200K per week

Vancouver Sun - - CANADA -

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.

ELAINE THOMP­SON / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILES

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.

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