OTTAWA — Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland has a message for Americans: “Please do not come to Canada unless you are coming for an essential reason.”
Freeland was asked Friday to respond to a CTV News report about American visitors who have been spotted dining out in Banff, flouting physical distancing and 14-day quarantine rules.
Though Americans are barred from entering Canada for non-essential travel, some travellers have reportedly been using a loophole to gain entry into Canada by claiming they’re driving to Alaska. Some have reportedly come from Texas, a state that is currently considered a COVID-19 hot spot.
Freeland said overall, the shared agreement between Canada and the U.S. to restrict travel has been working “very well.”
“I would just like to emphasize to all Canadians, to all Americans, that these restrictions are there for a reason,” she said during a daily press conference of federal ministers. “They are there to keep us all safe.”
A 14-day quarantine is mandatory for all travellers who arrive in Canada without COVID-19 symptoms.
Freeland acknowledged that despite travel restrictions at the Canada-U.S. border, people need to be able to cross on both sides to maintain supply chains that “our economy depends on.”
She said border agents have done a great job in asking questions to potential border crossers to determine if their travel is essential or not.
Watch: Americans and Canadians flock to park on No Man’s Land. Story continues below video.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau said officials can’t guarantee the border will be airtight while restrictions remain in place to curb cross-country transmission of the novel coronavirus.
Garneau said the government is “largely satisfied” by how most people are following rules.
“There will be cases where people do not do it and we believe that’s an irresponsible thing to do,” he said.
“We cannot guarantee 100 per cent that everybody is going to do it. And we are to some extent assuming good faith on the part of people at this point in time.”
The Canada-U.S. border has been closed to non-essential travel since mid-March at the onset of the government’s responses to curb the spread of COVID-19. The deal is set to expire on June 21, though reports have suggested the arrangement could be extended.
Canadians abroad have always been allowed to return, on the condition they enter a 14-day quarantine upon arrival. But some families have found themselves separated if immediate family members don’t hold Canadian citizenship to qualify them for entry.
Earlier this week, the federal government loosened some restrictions to allow for more reunification of immediate family members.