COVID-19: Momentum growing for U.S.-Canada border to reopen

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Pressure mounts on both sides to reopen border and boost tourism' COVID-19: Pressure mounts on both sides to reopen border and boost tourism
WATCH: Pressure is mounting on both sides of the Canada-US border to get travel flowing freely once again. President Biden and Prime Minister Trudeau are set to discuss border issues at this weekend's G7 in England. As Global’s Amanda Jelowicki reports, many hope they come home with a reopening plan. – Jun 11, 2021

A growing chorus of political leaders on both sides of the border are calling on the Canadian and American governments to reopen the border for vaccinated travellers.

“Those individuals who have been fully vaccinated on both sides of the border should be able to cross the border,” said Democratic U.S. Congressman Brian Higgins, the chair of the northern border caucus. “Follow the science, follow the facts, follow the data. They all point to the same thing. We now have a very powerful medicine against this disease. If you are fully vaccinated  you pose a very small risk of getting COVID or giving COVID.”

The federal government announced this week it is looking to ease quarantine travel requirements for fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents by early July.

But many political and business leaders in both the U.S. and Canada say it doesn’t go far enough, and that full vaccinated individuals should be free to cross freely.

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Liberal MP Wayne Easter says fully vaccinated Americans who own property in Canada should be able to visit their homes this summer.

“They can come in a safe fashion, they will add to the economy, they will renovate their seasonal residence. They will do it in a safe fashion. I do think we have to get there,” Easter said. “We are saying the government on both sides have to offer hope for the border to open, and lay out a plan.”

Read more: Trudeau faces questions on Canada-U.S. border reopening following easing of COVID-19 travel restrictions

Easter admitted it may be tough to convince Canadians it’s safe to reopen the border, after so much fear mongering by the government.

“We have managed on the Canadian side to create a heck of a lot of fear,” Easter said. “It was useful in the beginning to get people to stay home and wear masks and social distance. But we really did make people fearful.”

For border towns like Stanstead in Quebec’s Eastern Townships, residents have had enough.

Jeannette Sisco works at an antique shop there. She said in the past, people freely crossed the border each day, for groceries, gas and shopping. Since COVID-19, the border sits mainly empty,

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“We have lost a lot. We have a lot of people still not coming,” she said.

With 70 per cent of Canadians having received a first vaccination against COVID-19, many in this close-knit community want the border reopened.

“We have family over there we have not seen for two years. They have family over here they have not seen,” Sisco said.

Stanstead resident Robin Smith moved back to Canada from Newport, Vt. to care for her ailing mother during the pandemic. Her doctor and dentist remain in the States. She doesn’t believe fully vaccinated residents should require PCR tests to cross the border when they are so closely intertwined.

“What about us locals who live on the border and want to cross for a doctor or dentist appointment?” Smith said.

“It’s just not fair, don’t understand. I would have to stay overnight and get a COVID-19 test to come back in. Once we are fully vaccinated, we should be able to cross the border.”

From a tourism perspective, business leaders say too many livelihoods are on the line.

“We need a plan and we need a plan now,” said Beth Potter, the CEO of the Tourism Industry of Canada. “They are waiting. They have already lost one summer, they don’t want to lose a second summer, they don’t want to lose the fall.”

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Ultimately some say with two vaccines offering up to 90 per cent protection against the virus, there is no reason to keep the border closed to fully vaccinated individuals.

“My hope is that wisdom and science and facts and data will prevail,” said Higgins.

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