Canadians rebuffed by U.S. border another month
August 26, 2021
Canada opened its border to fully vaccinated Americans more than two weeks ago, but last week the U.S. extended its ban on Canadian travelers at the border for at least another month, citing COVID-19 concerns.
“To minimize the spread of COVID19, including the Delta variant, the United States is extending restrictions on non-essential travel at our land and ferry crossings with Canada and Mexico through September 21, while continuing to ensure the flow of essential trade and travel,” the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced via Twitter last Friday.
The news of a continued closure was met with continued disappointment in Haines and in the Yukon.
“It’s frustrating,” said Whitehorse resident Cameron Webber. “I want to put a boat in the water. I’ve got friends over there.”
In Haines, Doug Olerud said his family-owned Alaska Sport Shop usually would get about 30% to 40% of its business from Canadian travelers.
Alaska Rod’s owner Rod Hinson also said that in years past 30% of business has been from Canadians. The border closure “definitely is hurting us,” Hinson said.
Joe Ordonez of Rainbow Glacier Adventures said his business usually relies more on clients from cruise ships than on independent Canadian visitors but that “at this point anything would be great.”
“If the border opened up, we would’ve been thrilled,” Ordonez said. But “we weren’t counting on it.”
Haines Borough tourism director Steven Auch also wasn’t counting on it. “It has been kicked (down the road) every single month,” Auch said. “There’s a small part of me that appreciates the safety aspect of things, although from a business standpoint I’d certainly rather see things open and able to go.”
When asked whether opening the border to fully vaccinated Americans on Aug. 9 was the right decision, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters that “the risk of welcoming in people who are fully vaccinated is minimal, but we continue to monitor it carefully.” He also said that “there has always been a certain asymmetry in the arrangements” at the border, according to Canadian and U.S. media reports.
“It’s just baffling to me that we haven’t been able to figure out a way to allow people who are fully vaccinated and have a negative COVID test to cross the border,” Olerud said. Regardless of vaccination status, Canadians can fly to the U.S. with proof of a negative recent COVID test result: a Yukoner could get to Haines by flying first to Juneau but not by driving directly to the town. “That doesn’t make any sense at all,” Olerud said.
In the Yukon, Webber said he is hedging even “cautious optimism” that the border will open. “I wait with bated breath.”