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As Ottawa mulls more travel restrictions, CBSA has turned away more than 30K at border

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Trudeau defends Canada’s border, travel restrictions' Coronavirus: Trudeau defends Canada’s border, travel restrictions
Speaking to reporters outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in his opinion, Canada has some of the strongest COVID-19 travel and border restrictions of any country in the world. – Jan 26, 2021

The Canada Border Services Agency says it has so far turned away more than 30,000 foreign nationals trying to enter the country during the coronavirus pandemic.

It comes as the federal government faces growing pressure to crack down further on cross-border travel.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has warned in recent days that Canadians should cancel any plans to travel internationally and that the government plans to bring in measures related to travel imminently.

But premiers in provinces that have recently experienced severe spikes in cases have repeatedly urged for a blanket ban on non-essential travel to stop Canadians from leaving the country for sunny vacations or family visits abroad as global cases continue to rise.

Read more: Justin Trudeau mulls mandatory hotel quarantine for returning travellers

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As the question of whether to implement tighter border controls continues, the CBSA is sharing updated numbers on how many foreign nationals have tried to enter the country for non-essential reasons.

According to a spokesperson for the border agency, officers have turned away a total of 30,475 foreign nationals arriving from the U.S. via air and land between March 22, 2020, and Jan. 6, 2021.

In addition, 756 foreign nationals attempting to enter after arriving by air from countries other than the U.S. were also turned away at the border.

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In total, that’s 31,231 foreign nationals denied entry to Canada over the last nine-and-a-half months.

Of the 30,475 who attempted to enter via the border with the U.S., 26,572 of those were American citizens and 3,903 were foreign nationals from other countries attempting to enter via the U.S.

Of those attempting to enter Canada, 30 per cent cited tourism and sightseeing as the reason, while 11 per cent cited recreation and five per cent cited non-essential shopping.

The majority — 54 per cent — cited “other” as their reason, but CBSA would not clarify what that meant other than to say it was activities not captured in the other three categories.

Read more: Air Canada promoting ‘leisure’ travel to U.S. despite advisories warning against non-essential trips

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The federal government banned foreign nationals from entering Canada in March, shortly after the World Health Organization first declared a pandemic.

Only those performing essential activities or who qualify for a specific set of exemptions are allowed to enter Canada, such as truck drivers and the immediate or dependent family of Canadian citizens who are travelling for the purpose of reunification rather than for pleasure.

All foreign nationals can be denied entry if they have symptoms of COVID-19.

However, Canadians are technically allowed to leave the country whenever they want, so long as the country they plan to enter has not banned them from arriving — even though the Canadian government is urging all Canadians not to travel.

The loophole has led to Canadian politicians and others continuing to book trips around the world, as was evidenced by the large number of public officials criticized for travelling over the holidays.

Trudeau says the government is now considering forcing travellers who meet the criteria to enter Canada to quarantine at their own cost in hotels rather than in their own homes for two weeks.

Canada already requires travellers to present a negative COVID-19 test before being allowed to enter the country, and all travellers except those such as truck drivers are required to quarantine for two weeks.

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Premiers including Quebec’s Francois Legault have argued those measures don’t go far enough.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Quebec premier urges feds to ban non-essential international flights' Coronavirus: Quebec premier urges feds to ban non-essential international flights
Coronavirus: Quebec premier urges feds to ban non-essential international flights – Jan 19, 2021