After two years, Peter Badeau, who lives in Connecticut with his wife and kids, wasted little time to get back to his family cottage in Thessalon, Ont., at Big Basswood Lake, enduring a six-hour drive and a one-hour wait on Monday.
“I’m thrilled. Happy to be here,” he said.
Another American, Debbie Earl from Elizabethtown in North Carolina, drove into Canada with her daughter, Ashley, for the first time on Monday, as part of a birthday trip to Niagara Falls.
“We’re very excited,” Earl said.
“I’ve always wanted to see Niagara Falls,” her daughter added. “I’m a big nature person.”
The Earls and Badeaus were several among thousands of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who queued up to enter Canada for the first time since they were closed more than one year ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Global News reporters at the Rainbow Bridge port of entry between New York and Niagara Falls said long lines could be seen as early as 5 a.m. ET on Monday.
Along with an escort, Global News climbed aboard the observation area over the customs screening lines at the Rainbow Bridge. There were about 55 cars in the queue at any one time.
Travellers said typical waiting lines were between one to two hours. To be eligible, travellers must live in the U.S., be 14 days past their last vaccine dose and show proof of a negative molecular test for COVID-19 that’s no more than 72 hours old.
Visitors were required to upload their vaccination details on the ArriveCAN app or through an online web portal prior to arrival, the Canada Border Services Agency said.
Many were heading to cottages, but some, like the Earls, were entering Canada for the first time. Others couldn’t wait to see their loved ones.
Mark Leverenc told Global News he couldn’t wait a day longer to see his friend, who lives in Cobourg, Ont.
“I missed my friend,” he said, adding the two hadn’t seen each other since the pandemic began.
“I had a bit of anxiety,” he said of the rigorous process to cross the Canadian border. “But it ended up being fine. Really wasn’t a big deal at all.”
The federal government opened up its borders to fully-vaccinated Americans and permanent residents at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, prompting large crowds of travellers not seen since before the pandemic.
The United States has yet to lift its restrictions preventing Canadian citizens and permanent residents from entering the country, which experts say could be due to a host of different reasons, including that the U.S. has yet to develop an app that is similar to ArriveCAN.
Laurie Trautman, the director of the border policy research institute at Western Washington University, told the Canadian Press that the U.S. may not have the capacity to handle claims during the pandemic.
“If the U.S. lifts restrictions on the Canadian border, in all likelihood, that would have to be reciprocated on the Mexican border and once that happens, the ability for asylum seekers to make claims would be reinstated,” she said.
— with files from the Canadian PressView link »