Canada Loosens Border Controls So That Family Can Reunite

June 9, 2020 Updated: June 9, 2020

Restrictions at the Canada-U.S. border were loosened as of June 8 to allow direct family members to be reunited, the federal government has announced.

“Foreign nationals who are immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents would be exempt from the prohibition on entry to Canada if entering to be with an immediate family member for a period of at least 15 days,” says a press release on the Canada Border Services Agency’s website.

The exemption is allowed only under the condition that the family member doesn’t show any symptoms or signs of COVID-19. Foreign nationals who are admitted into Canada under the exemption must self-quarantine for 14 days.

Immediate family members refer to a spouse or common-law partner, a dependent child, parent, or step-parent, and a guardian or tutor, the release said.

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marco Mendicino clarified that “the immediate family exemption does not mean the border will now be open to weekend travellers, or those seeking just to attend a personal or social gathering. For people traveling from abroad, they must still have a valid visa or Electronic Travel Authorization.”

On March 18, Canada initiated a ban on foreigners entering Canada from all countries except the United States to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. Then on March 21, the Canada-U.S. border was shut down for all non-essential travel. On May 19, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the closure would be extended to June 21. 

Trudeau said on May 29 that the government was working on the possibility of reuniting families separated by the border closure. This is the first move to loosen the border controls in three months. 

“This pandemic has meant different challenges for everyone, but no matter who you are, and no matter what you’re dealing with, a little bit of help can make all the difference,” Trudeau said on June 8.

Mendicino said the government will be closely monitoring the border situation to keep the spread of the virus in check.

“COVID-19 remains a concern and we must continue to take measures at the border that are necessary from spreading it, and the measures today represent an incremental, a responsible and a thoughtful response towards that objective,” Mendicino said.

Canada had 96,244 COVID-19 cases in total as of June 9.