GRAND FORKS — The U.S.-Canada border closure likely will be extended for another month, but it appears the end is near for some travel restrictions that have been in place for more than a year.
On Thursday, July 15, 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.”
Canada also could allow fully vaccinated travelers from all nations to begin visiting by mid-September.
Trudeau added that Canada continues to lead G20 countries in vaccination rates with around 80% of eligible Canadians vaccinated with their first dose and more than 50% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated.
The U.S.-Canada border has been closed to nonessential travel for more than a year. In May, Canada relaxed travel restrictions for residents of Minnesota’s Northwest Angle, a part of the state that is surrounded on three sides by Canada, and accessible by boat on the U.S. side. People driving to the Angle need to enter Manitoba to reach the region.
Earlier in July, Canadian businesspeople expressed hope about the border being reopened to nonessential travel. Doing so, they say, will allow them to salvage at least a portion of the summer travel season.
“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, N.D., 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.
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 previous statement.
Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., echoed a similar sentiment, stating “the U.S.-Canada border should be safely re-opened as soon as possible, as it would benefit both nations, alleviate supply chain disruptions and help small businesses in border communities in both North Dakota and Canada,” Hoeven said.
In May, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., chaired a meeting between 10 U.S. senators and 14 Canadian parliamentarians regarding a number of topics, including trade and security. At that meeting, she encouraged swift action be taken to help communities impacted by the travel restrictions.
Friday, Klobuchar said she sees a light at the end of the tunnel. Loosening restrictions, she said, will make it easier not only to visit friends and family but also for businesses to get goods to market. Further, she said, it will be a boost for tourism. Klobuchar said she will continue to advocate for removing travel restrictions.
"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," Klobuchar said.