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Does Canada really want to reopen the border with the United States?

by Cédric Ayisa - October 02, 2020   1325 Views   5 min
Does Canada really want to reopen the border with the United States?


Canada would like to reopen the border with the U.S.


Inaccurate as a whole (with reservations)

During a media scrum in late September 2020, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that Canada would like to reopen the borders with the United States. This statement is incorrect as a whole, with reservations.

To limit the spread of COVID-19, border crossings between Canada and the United States have been restricted to the exchange of goods, essential travellers and returning citizens (or immediate family members) since the start of the pandemic. Border closures were first introduced in March for a period of 30 days, subject to re-evaluation and further extension as the pandemic evolved.

On 18 September, in response to a journalist's question about the Canada-U.S. border, Mr. Trump said the reopening would be "pretty soon". He went on to say that "Canada would like it open" and "you know, we want to get back to normal business". However, after verification, we found that on the same day, officials handling border affairs in both countries made announcements which contradict Mr. Trump's statement.

What Canadian and U.S. authorities said before Mr. Trump's remarks

The latest agreement on the border closure was due to expire on 21 September 2020. On 18 September, hours before Donald Trump’s declarations, Canada's Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and his U.S. counterpart, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, respectively announced on Twitter that the border closure had been extended until 21 October 2020. Both declarations were followed by a statement (Canada & U.S.) which contradicted Trump’s declaration.

Also, a few days before the extension of the closure was announced, Canada's Health Minister Patty Hajdu mentioned in an interview that she was "happy" with the border closure because Canada already has its "hands full" with the pandemic.

These announcements are therefore contrary to what Donald Trump told the media about Canada's desire to reopen borders with the United States. However, Mr. Blair indicated that they "will continue to base our decisions on the best public health advice available to keep Canadians safe". All of this leads us to conclude that the US President's statement regarding the Canada-U.S. border is inaccurate as a whole. However, we do have some reservations because of the term "would like". This means that, in theory, Canada would indeed probably like to reopen its borders with the United States, but is not in a position to do so for the being or the foreseeable future based on public health recommendations.

What the Canadian public thinks about the closure of the Canada-U.S. border

Several surveys have shown that Canadians support the government's decision to keep the borders with the United States closed and to require health measures for those allowed to enter Canada. For example, in July, Léger conducted a survey in Canada about the border reopening and it was revealed that 86% of the population agreed that the border with the U.S. should remain closed for non-essential travel. Another poll by Ipsos (also in July) showed that 85% of Canadians would like the borders with the U.S. to remain closed until at least the end of the year. In addition, in September, a ResearchCo. poll found that 90% of Canadians agree with border closures. The numbers therefore show a very strong level of approval of these measures by the Canadian population. In comparison, only 35% of Canadians believe that "the priority should be to re-impose public safety measures that severely limit group size and close some businesses".

Is the border closure effective?

There are currently no specific data on the subject. But at the beginning of the pandemic, travel was shown to be an important source of the global spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Canada's ambassador to the United States points out that border closures "are doing what they were design to do", i.e. to allow the circulation of goods and essential services, while controlling the spread of the virus and reducing the risk to our citizens on both sides", considering that the United States has recorded more than 7 million cases, while Canada has counted almost 157,000 cases as of 30 September 2020.

Detailed data on 138,061 of these cases is available as of the same date, and shows that almost 4% (5,269) of people who were infected with COVID-19 travelled outside Canada. In May 2020, the Ministère de la Santé et des Services Sociaux du Québec released data to Canadian newspaper Le Devoir showing that 25% of travellers who tested positive for COVID-19 after their return had travelled to the US, while less than 1% had travelled to China.

Travel restrictions to and from the United States are reviewed every 30 days. The strong support of the Canadian public for continued border closures, the continuing trend in COVID-19 cases in the United States, the current lack of vaccine against the disease, the inconstant application of public health measures across the United States and the rising number of cases in Canada make it unlikely that Canada will reopen its border with its Southern neighbour anytime soon. In addition, on 2 October 2020, one month prior to the presidential election, the President of the United States announced on his official Twitter account that he and his wife had tested positive for COVID-19, further showing the impact of the inconstant application of public health measures in his country.

What lessons can we learn from Donald Trump's statement?

When dealing with declarations made by a leader about another nation, it is important to refer to the official sources of the concerned country to obtain accurate information. In addition, the credibility of the person making the statement needs to be assessed. In the case of Donald Trump, it has been proven on several occasions that the US President makes inaccurate, unsubstantiated, or harmful statements. This trend has recently prompted social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to take action on Trump's posts.

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  • October 07, 2020

    On October 2, Canada's Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino, Health Minister Patty Hajdu, and Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair, introduced exemptions to travel restrictions, allowing extended families, foreign nationals and international students to return to Canada under certain conditions.   

    Among the measures that come into effect on October 8, 2020, the authorities announced that they will allow certain extended family members (including those in an exclusive dating relationship of at least one year and their dependent children, as well as adult children and grandchildren) of Canadian citizens and permanent residents, to travel to Canada, while respecting quarantine rules, health measures already in place at the borders, and immigration requirements (including the reception of an official letter authorizing them to enter the country).  

    In addition, the authorities have stated that they will allow foreign nationals to enter Canada for compassionate reasons. Foreign nationals may enter Canada to say goodbye to someone at the end of their life, to provide health care to someone who requires medical support, or to attend a funeral.   

    Health Minister Patty Hajdu also mentioned that it would be possible for people entering or returning to Canada for compassionate reasons, to apply for a "limited release from mandatory quarantine", to say goodbye to a loved one at the end of their life, or to attend a funeral.  

    Also, as of October 20, Minister Marco Mendicino said international students will be able to enter Canada, if they will be attending a designated learning institution that has been identified by their provincial or territorial government as having a COVID‑19 readiness plan in place 

    Minister Bill Blair also emphasized the effectiveness of border measures and announced the strengthening of these measures to continue to protect Canadians. He also noted that restrictions at the U.S border will remain in place until otherwise advised by health authorities.  

Prime Minister – Justin Trudeau

Twitter – Bill Blair

Government of Canada/Public Safety

Twitter – Chad Wolf

Twitter – Donald Trump

U.S Government/Department of Homeland Security

Global News




CTV News

Le Devoir

Health Canada

John Hopkins University of Medicine



Government of Canada - Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship



Donald Trump

Canada would like to reopen the border with the U.S.


Inaccurate as a whole (with reservations)

 October 02, 2020


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