'If you have a vaccine, you should be allowed to cross the border': U.S. Senator calls for immediate border reopening
WINDSOR, ONT. -- As more and more people across Canada and the U.S. get vaccinated, there are renewed calls from prominent American politicians to reopen the shared northern border.
Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer of New York wants a public plan in place — even suggesting anyone who is vaccinated should be able to cross for essential reasons immediately.
“The bottom line is very simple. If you have a vaccine, you should be allowed to cross the border,” says Schumer.
The Canada U-S land border has been closed to most non-essential travellers since March 20, 2020.
Schumer wrote a letter to the U-S Secretary of State and Department of Homeland Security, urging them to collaborate with Canadian counterparts to slowly reopen the border for people who are vaccinated.
He says it’s time to jumpstart border city economies and reconnect people with their families, properties and services.
“Any vaccinated individual with family, business, property, education, medical reasons be deemed an essential traveller so they can come right away,” says Schumer, saying measures would need to be put in place to ensure it’s a safe and measured approach. “And then, work very quickly to allowing anyone who can show they’re vaccinated to go across the border.”
It’s an approach international business and immigration lawyer Laurie Tannous believes is the right one.
“I think Chuck Schumer’s onto something,” Tannous says. “I believe that if the Canadian government said yes, let's open, that’s what the U.S. wants.”
Tannous says she gets emails and calls every day from businesses trying to facilitate the crossing of workers for essential reasons.
She says while the movement of goods has been effective since the onset of the pandemic, the movement of people has not — and it’s starting to cause a ripple effect on businesses.
“The millions and millions of dollars lost to this country because of the inability to efficiently facilitate the movement of people is, we’re going to be feeling the effects of that for years to come,” Tannous says. “It’s become out of hand and I’m quite frankly embarrassed at the number of people telling me ‘I no longer want to do business with Canada. I’m pulling my work out of Canada.’”
Based on conversations with stakeholders on both sides of the border, Tannous predicts the border will reopen to more people by late Fall, 2021, and believes vaccine passports could be the pathway.
Any plan would not merely be a “return to normal” but instead be “executed in a measured, responsible, careful way that’s not going to expose us unnecessarily,” says Tannous.
But in the meantime, Tannous says U.S. businesses with interests in Canada are getting ready to throw in the towel.
“It’s concerning because businesspeople are getting tired and getting fatigued with how cumbersome it is to do what use to be something that’s so simple and they have free trade agreements that should afford those privileges,” Tannous says.
Windsor-Essex county’s medical officer of health says case rates and the spread of variants of concern on both sides of the border are likely still too high to consider reopening the border.
Dr. Wajid Ahmed would also like to see the vaccination coverage at a level which makes everyone feel more comfortable with cross-border travel.
“We want to make sure it’s not rushed just for the sake of it,” says Dr. Ahmed. “And ensuring the safety and well-being of both communities are kept in mind when any of these decisions are being made."