Last Updated on June 4, 2021
Canadian Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino is in talks with his American counterpart, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, to re-open the Canada-U.S. border as the COVID-19 pandemic gradually comes under control.
“Today, I spoke with my U.S. counterpart (U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security) Alejandro Mayorkas,” tweeted Mendicino on Thursday.
“We advanced our partnership on global migration by discussing the promotion of legal pathways, capacity-building and best practices on community sponsorship for refugees. A good call with more collaboration ahead.”
In a statement, the Canadian immigration minister added he and Mayorkas “also discussed the management of our shared border, including the current border restrictions and the eventual resumption of international travel, which will be critical for economic recovery in both countries.”
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The high-level discussions to re-open the border were immediately given two thumbs up by supporters of open immigration in the United States.
Matthew La Corte, government affairs manager for immigration policy at the Niskanen Center think-tank in the U.S., described these talks as outstandingly good news – and he said Canada’s southern neighbour has a lot to learn from Canadian immigration policy.
News of Border Reopening Talks Welcomed
“The U.S. is poised to become a major global actor in the community sponsorship space and we have a lot to learn from our northern neighbours,” La Corte tweeted.
Andrew Selee, president of the pro-immigration Migration Policy Institute, also welcomed the resumption of talks about the border re-opening between Canada and the U.S.
The talks between Canada and the U.S. on re-opening the border come as an increasing number of Members of Parliament in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s own party are calling for the current border restrictions to be lifted.
Wayne Easter, a Liberal Party MP and chair of the House of Commons finance committee, reportedly told the Politico news outlet last month the Canadian government needs to put in place a border re-opening plan within the next month.
Easter carries extra clout on re-opening the border to Americans due to his position as co-chair of the Canada-U.S. Inter-Parliamentary Group.
“As you get into July 1, Canada Day, and July 4, Independence Day, then those target dates are real pressure points for wanting to be normalized,” he reportedly said. “The heat’s on, and I think we absolutely must have a plan.”
Border Re-Opened For Canada Day?
He blamed the lack of a plan on the extensive use of Zoom to hold caucus meetings during the pandemic.
“You can’t rub shoulders … and say to somebody, ‘Look, this is the issue and let’s get on it together today and put the pressure on,’” he reportedly said.
“You have, to a certain extent, the Ottawa bubble mentality and that can be part of the problem. Same as the Washington, D.C., mentality. It’s two different worlds. I say both [are] a bubble in which reality or common sense doesn’t exist.”
Canada’s border with its neighbour to the south has been shut to non-essential travel since March of last year.
Vaccination programs in both the United States and Canada, though, are now causing public sentiment to slowly change about the possible hazards of spreading COVID-19 by re-opening the border.
Political leaders in the United States have also been pressuring Washington to re-open the border.
“All indications are they’ll open up next month,” Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat, reportedly said in May. “We’re almost there. But I don’t know if they’ll do it all at once or take a phased approach.”
Trudeau’s government has been adamant the Canada-U.S. border must stay closed to non-essential travel until the COVID-19 pandemic abates. The prime minister has repeatedly stated most Canadians will be vaccinated by September.
But anonymous sources have told journalists a different story about the government’s intentions, indicating Canada may be considering a “two-track system” to ease the quarantine and COVID-19 testing measures for vaccinated travellers.
Think vaccine passports.
Safe Way To Re-Open Borders
“The idea of certificates of vaccination for international travel exists already and is well-established. There are countries in the world where you shouldn’t go unless you can prove that you’ve been vaccinated against certain tropical diseases, for example. That’s well established,” said Trudeau earlier this year.
“But the idea of certificates of vaccination for domestic use to decide, you know, if you can go to a concert or who can go to a particular restaurant or engage in certain activities does bring in questions of equity, questions of fairness,” said the prime minister.
“There are some people who because of medical conditions or other reasons will not be able to get vaccinated. There are other people who are not on priority lists who will have to wait much longer before getting vaccinations. These are things we have to take into account.”
An Angus Reid poll released earlier this year shows most Canadians seem to support their prime minister’s wait-and-see approach.
In that poll, a quarter of Canadians reported they only want the country’s border with its southern neighbour to be re-opened this autumn. Almost a third, 31 per cent, said it should only open at the end of the year.
Roughly half of Canadians, 51 per cent, still supported a full ban on international travel in mid-April but that measure was then already dropping in popularity. In January, the international travel ban enjoyed 65 per cent support.