The border between Canada and the U.S. will likely close sometime on Friday night or early Saturday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday.
Speaking at his now-daily press conference at Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Trudeau said the details on the non-essential border closure were still being worked out with the American government. The closure will affect non-essential travel, not trade and essential workers who may be employed in a different country than they live. However, Ottawa has not elaborated on how border guards will determine who that exception applies to.
“I think it’s almost there,” he said.
U.S. President Donald Trump suggested Wednesday that the travel ban would likely be in place for about a month, although timelines remain a moving target given the nature of the outbreak and a persistent lack of clarity about the scope and severity of the emergency.
Trump, a border hawk who has already banned foreign nationals who recently visited Europe from setting foot in the U.S., has characterized the agreement as something that would be “good for both countries” — a departure for someone whose “America First” rallying cry, disdain for free trade and stay-home foreign-policy preferences have helped forge his reputation as a self-interested isolationist.
That reputation has some Canada-U.S. observers marvelling at the co-operation, while others fear the goodwill could be short-lived.
The Canadian American Business Council is asking members to submit testimonials about the importance of commercial channels “to make the case that these measures not be broadened in the future to include commerce.”
Chris Sands, a cross-border scholar and head of the Canada Institute at the Washington-based Wilson Center, noted that the U.S. hasn’t exactly been working hand-in-glove with other countries — most notably China or Europe — when it comes to curbing the spread of COVID-19.
“It is the fruit of nearly two decades of efforts by the United States and Canada after the Sept. 11 attacks to adopt a shared border management approach that is data-driven, utilizing risk management to allocate personnel and technology to keep the border open to legitimate trade and travellers in an emergency,” Sands said in a statement.
Until the closure takes effect, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair has been urging Canadians in the interim to honour the spirit of the agreement and resist the temptation to try to enter the United States if it’s not absolutely necessary.
Trudeau said Canadians abroad will be getting a text message connecting them to consular service. He reiterated the offer of a $5,000 loan offer for Canadians abroad to come home.