Canadians push back as U.S. Congress pressures Canada to reopen shared border
OTTAWA -- As U.S. members of Congress push Canada to reopen its shared border with the United States, Canadians are pushing back — both in government and on social media.
In an open letter addressed to Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, 29 bipartisan members of Congress called on the Canadian government to plan a phased reopening of the Canada-U.S. border and to consider easing existing measures.
"We are asking that the United States and Canada immediately craft a comprehensive framework for phased reopening of the border based on objective metrics and accounting for the varied circumstances across border regions," read the letter, which was published on Western New York Congressman Brian Higgins' website on July 3.
The members of Congress, who represent the northern states along the border, also implored the Canadian government to consider easing restrictions on family members and property owners impeded by the border closure.
"We understand the importance of prioritizing the safety of our communities as we all navigate the complex calculation of minimizing public health risks and resuming economic activity. However, the social and economic partnership between our two nations necessitates a clear pathway forward," the letter read.
They crafted the letter following the latest joint Canada-U.S. agreement to extend the current border closure until July 21. This is the third time the agreement to maintain the border closure has been extended.
Despite the United States' plea, a spokesperson for Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland told CTVNews.ca in a Friday statement that the health and safety of Canadians is "absolutely priority."
"Decisions about Canada's border are made by Canadians, for Canadians," said Freeland's spokesperson, Katherine Cuplinskas, in the statement.
"Since the beginning of this global pandemic, we have been having friendly ongoing conversations with our American partners about our shared border. Both sides agree that the current measures in place, which are set to expire on July 21st, have worked well in restricting non-essential travel while allowing essential crossings to continue unimpeded."
Freeland's office wasn’t alone in pushing back against the call. Higgins posted the open letter in full on his Twitter page and he was swiftly met with backlash on the social media platform.
One comment, which had three times as many likes as Higgins' original post, slammed the call.
"No thank you...clean up your backyard before you attempt to enter ours..sincerely Canada," wrote a user who goes by the name @MichelletypoQ.
Another user, @rachelinTO, wrote that "most of our earliest cases came from the U.S. So...... that's a firm 'no'. Sorry, eh."
Other users called the request "disastrous" and multiple accounts said they’d only be comfortable easing restrictions after seeing improvement in the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S.
The United States reached a macabre milestone at the end of June when it became home to the world’s highest number of reported infections: more than 2.2 million. It also has the highest death toll in the world, with 120,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Shortly after the news broke about the soaring cases in the United States, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government was considering next steps for the looming deadline of the current border closure.
Speaking in a press conference on June 29, with just over three weeks until the agreement expires, he said the government will continue to assess the situation at our shared border.
"We have extended the border measures with the United States until July 21. We will continue to assess the situation and work with the Americans on what steps need to be taken into the month of August," Trudeau said.
And as COVID-19 continues to affect countries around the world, Trudeau said the health of Canadians remains the top priority when considering the loosening of any border restrictions.
"We are going to be very, very careful about when and how we start reopening international borders," Trudeau said.