Schumer calls for the unilateral reopening of the American-Canadian border | News, sports, jobs
SACKETS HARBOR – Canadian politics are holding back the reopening of the northern border and it is time the United States took unilateral steps to allow more crossings, Senate majority leader Charles E. Schumer said Tuesday.
As part of a one day trip through Upstate New York, Sen. Schumer, DN.Y. visited Sackets Harbor on Tuesday lunchtime to call on the United States to cross the border into the United States by July 21, Canadians vaccinated against COVID-19.
“I declare today that the time has come for the United States to act without the Canadian government because they have delayed too long.” he said.
Schumer said if there isn’t a bilateral agreement to reopen the border to vaccinated travelers, announced by July 21, when the current closure agreement is due to expire, American officials should change the definition of essential travel to include vacation travel, tourism and patronizing business to be included. This redefinition would only apply to people entering the United States from Canada.
Schumer said there appeared to be support for his position from President Joe Biden‘s administration, and said he planned to speak to US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas later on Tuesday to discuss the proposal. Other lawmakers with constituencies along the northern border, including MP Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylverville, have also urged the Biden government in recent weeks to unilaterally reopen the border to Canadian travelers.
The border between the two countries has been closed to most travelers since mid-March 2020 – only limited business traffic, shipping and medical crossings are allowed at the 117 entry points along the world’s longest unprotected border between two nations.
The shutdown was originally portrayed as a temporary, mutual response to the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, when the US saw cases rise while Canada expanded relatively slowly. But the extension of the closure came in months-long increments, with the Canadian government typically announcing an extension of the closure days before the agreement expired.
The Senator said the closure has become a point of contention, with many caveats and rules turning it into one “Less friendly” Limit for those who live nearby. Boaters on Lake Ontario or the St. Lawrence River have reported being attacked by Canadian border patrols while crossing the international border in the water without anchoring or showing any intention of docking.
Additionally, tourist boating companies such as Uncle Sam’s Boat Tours in Alexandria Bay are prohibited from entering Canadian waters at any time, but Canadian tour boats are not prevented from entering American waters.
Schumer said the US is now ready to reopen the border, and has been for months. He said the American vaccination rate, especially in northern border states like New York, shows that it would be safe to welcome vaccinated Canadians back into the country and allow vaccinated Americans to enter Canada.
“When we have occupied football stadiums, theaters and restaurants for vaccinated people, we can certainly develop a plan to cross the border.” he said.
Schumer said he had a meeting with Canadian and American officials in May to discuss reopening the border and asked for a phased plan that will allow vaccinated people to enter and exit both countries with minor restrictions. This plan was never developed due to internal divisions within the ruling Liberal Party itself and between the other parties in the Canadian parliament, said Schumer. He said the US-Canada border has become a polarizing issue in Canadian politics and this has left too little movement among Canadian officials on the issue.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday that his administration’s plans to fully reopen the US-Canada border will be announced in the coming weeks, and as of Monday, any Canadian citizen or permanent resident fully with a Vaccine approved by Canada is vaccinated, avoid a fourteen-day quarantine when returning to Canada from the USA
Canada’s vaccination rate has lagged America’s, and as of July 4, only 36% of Canadians had a full vaccination against COVID-19. But 69% of Canadians have received at least one dose of a vaccine, suggesting the rate of fully vaccinated people will rise in the coming weeks.
Schumer said he continues to hope a binational agreement to reopen the border will be reached before the July 21 deadline, but he doesn’t count on it.
“At other times they have said that they will do certain things and they have not done it because of internal conflict.” he said.