Having suffered over 14 months of separation, many Canadians are eagerly waiting for the U.S. border to reopen to renew relationships with friends and family, or to simply get back to travelling south of the border.
The Canada-U.S. border has been closed to non-essential travel since March 21, 2020. The current extension period is set to end on June 21, although that could change. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on May 31 that Canada won’t be rushed into reopening the border, saying “we’ll make our decisions based on the interests of Canadians and not based on what other countries want.”
The United States seems more ready to open the gates. Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas told Politico that border restrictions will begin to be lifted on June 22. In the same article, Liberal MP Wayne Easter acknowledged it was crucial to lay out a schedule so people could make summer plans.
Point Roberts, Washington, community newspaper All Points Bulletin reports that, although there has been no official word as yet, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer confirmed that the border will open without restrictions on June 22.
If that happens, it would be welcome news for Tom Metzner, a resident of Red Lake, Ont. He married his wife, Shara, from Mound City, Kansas, almost 40 years ago and the couple bought a second home in Kansas 29 years ago. They have spent winters there ever since—except for this most recent one, during which Metzner said they were stranded in the “Great White North.”
“With custody of a minor grandchild, we are unable to fulfill obligations for visits to her other grandparents and half-siblings. It’s stupid and unfair,” Metzner told The Epoch Times.
Last year, the pandemic kept both friends and walleye fishers from seeing the Metzners at Bull Moose Camp, a fly-in location the couple operates on Upper Goose Lake in northwestern Ontario. In April, the camp’s Facebook page called the timing for the border opening a “multibillion-dollar question indeed.”
“As with last year, we have no choice but to hang on to the hope of a partial season and not just pull the plug on the whole summer. Saying that, my gut is already twisting with the feeling that by mid-August, we’ll have to cancel it all,” the post said.
Leslie Markel of Nanaimo, B.C., looks forward to an open border with both anticipation and urgency. “My BFF and I used to take many trips down. She has now been diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer,” Markel said of her 39-year-old friend.
“We have been desperately wanting to take a trip together because time is of the essence. This year has been very hard on me, my best friend, and people around us who also spent a lot of time travelling. Freedom is essential.”
University of Montana alumnus Wanda Wagner, who lives in Lacombe, Alberta, says she will both rejoice and mourn when she returns to her home state.
“When the border opens, I can see my family who lives just on the other side. We can have a memorial service that is 15 months overdue. It is time. We lost our stepdad of 40 years,” she said.
“I live in Alberta, grew up in Montana. Both are so beautiful,” Wagner added.
Wendy Enns lives near Baldur, Manitoba, a 30-minute drive from the North Dakota border. American loved ones who were once so close now seem far, far away, she says.
“We have family in the U.S. and we have missed them and being a part of their lives. It’s not right,” Enns said.
“Kids, grandkids, and lots of wonderful friends. We had a granddaughter graduate. We missed her whole senior year and grad. Makes a grandma cry. [It’s] hard because we live right next to the border and we are used to missing nothing.”
In Gull Lake, Saskatchewan, Samantha Allison yearns to see her extended family.
“I haven’t seen my birth mom since Christmas of 2019. She hasn’t been able to come and play with her granddaughter because of it. She has to watch her grow from far away. We normally see each other four or so times a year,” Allison says.
“And for my adopted family, I haven’t seen my brother or sister and their families for just as long either. My brother turned 50 and we didn’t get to celebrate together. It’s been so hard.”
Allison said she “would definitely be happy” to see the border reopen.
“I would certainly try to plan trips to the U.S. to see my family, or to host them here, depending on the situation. … It would depend on what restrictions are still in place, since the quarantine periods are still so long on both sides of the border.”
Sue Spratt lives in Windsor, Ontario, and in normal circumstances could drive four hours to see her child and grandson in Ohio. “We can’t visit. Worse situation,” Spratt said.
“We winter in Florida. Went [by plane] on Dec. 30 and came home April 29, quarantining two weeks and all the other necessary stuff. Not worth all that to visit my grandson for a few days,” she said.
“We also sold our boat that we had for 20 years. We are in Windsor, across the border from Detroit, with access to so many American places that we enjoy. The past couple of boating seasons have not gone well. We can’t even be in U.S. waters.”
U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer mentioned the boating issue on May 20 when he called on the Department of Homeland Security to co-operate with Canada to reopen the border.
“[W]ork with your Canadian counterparts to clarify the policy for boaters who traverse the border mid-transit,” he said in a statement.
“Boaters, including tour boat companies that cross the border without docking, do not increase the spread of COVID-19 and should not be unduly penalized by the border policy.”