More than 18,000 people have tried to visit, shop and sightsee in Canada despite border closure

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Despite strict travel restrictions imposed to stop the spread of COVID-19, more than 18,000 foreign nationals – mostly US citizens – have been turned back at the border after attempting to enter Canada to shop, visit or visiting people.This trend has prompted the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to remind people of the ban on non-essential travel before the Labor Day weekend – traditionally a busy time for cross-border visits.

According to CBSA statistics, 18,431 people were refused entry to Canada between March 22 and September 2 because their travel was deemed “discretionary.”

Of these, 16,070 were U.S. citizens and 2,361 were citizens of other countries from the United States.

Another 448 travelers arriving in Canada by air directly from other foreign countries were refused entry.

The Canada-U.S. Border is to remain closed to non-essential travel until at least September 21, under an agreement between the two countries.

“With these travel restrictions still in place, travelers attempting to enter Canada for discretionary reasons such as sightseeing or shopping will not be permitted to enter Canada,” CBSA spokesperson said. , Mark Stuart.

Travelers are also not permitted to enter Canada to check cabins or seasonal homes, to hike, boat, fish or hunt, to visit friends or to attend parties. or other celebrations, he said.

Some exemptions from the border ban are in place for spouses and some workers and students, but anyone allowed to enter Canada must self-isolate for 14 days and follow other provincial and territorial guidelines in public health.

Jean-Pierre Fortin, national president of the Customs and Immigration Union, said that despite strong messages from Canadian government officials about the border closure, “a lot of people are still trying to get in.”

“Surprising” figures

“They think they are allowed to come and visit their friends and family and it is not working,” he said. ” It is not the moment. They must stay in their country. ”

Although he said the number of people still attempting to enter Canada is “surprising,” Fortin added that this must be seen in the context of the size of the border – the longest international crossing in the world. world.

The closure to non-essential travel, in effect since March 21, has resulted in a sharp drop in traffic between the two countries. The border remains open to trade and transport services.

“We remain extremely busy at the border with commercial products. There are drugs arriving in Canada, there is food arriving in Canada, ”said Fortin. “The officers remain vigilant in the application of the regulations requested of them. ”

The prolonged border closure is weighing heavily on Canada’s travel and tourism industry.

Charlotte Bell, president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, said U.S. residents made an average of more than 14 million trips to Canada each year before the pandemic struck. Tourist attractions, tour operators, conference centers and others that depend on the massive US market have seen their revenues drop or dry up entirely due to the travel ban.

“We were the hardest hit and the first. This will have a huge impact on our ability to restart as long as the borders remain closed, ”she said.

Tourism sector calls for support

Bell said the industry needs government support to give it the liquidity it needs to survive the crisis and ultimately bounce back.

“It’s a resilient industry and when things start to open up more I think you’ll find that we’ll be there and ready to welcome travelers, whether domestic or international, and I think there is a lot of optimism when that day comes, ”she said.

Tess Messmer, spokesperson for Destination Canada, said COVID-19 has caused the loss of up to 450,000 jobs and up to $ 62 billion in revenue in the tourism sector.

The crown corporation says it is working to increase demand for domestic travel for the fall, winter and beyond. Money that would normally be used for international marketing is redirected to support provincial, territorial and local marketing efforts.

“By focusing now on the national campaign, it allows us to begin to build trust in our home, and ultimately [in] international markets, ”Messmer said in an email.

“When the time is right – guided by health regulations, research and other factors – Destination Canada will gradually evolve into international marketing programs. ”

US statistics that can be compared directly to CBSA figures are not available, but figures provided to the SRC by US Customs and Border Protection show that 6,878 people attempting to enter the United States were deemed inadmissible at land entry points on the northern border between March and July.

These people could have been declared inadmissible to the United States for any of the 60 reasons listed in the Immigration and Nationality Act. Of those found inadmissible, 2,479 were Canadians and the remaining 4,399 were citizens of other countries.

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