It wasn’t the caravan that some expected, but a steady flow of southbound cars that crossed the U.S.-Canada border on Monday, Nov. 8, at Pembina, North Dakota, marked the return of at least something that resembles normal travel between the two countries.
According to a Grand Forks Herald report from the border, Canadians who made the crossing were excited that U.S. restrictions — in place since March 2020 — were finally being eased.
“We’re just happy that finally Canadians can come to America and Americans can come to Canada. We’re back to almost normal,” said Donna Rodomski of West St. Paul, Manitoba. She and her husband, John, were en route to their winter home in Mesa, Arizona.
It’s a belated development, one that should have occurred months ago, ideally around the time Canada opened its borders to nonessential northbound travel.
That happened on Aug. 9. The U.S. has dragged its feet since, sparking ire from north-border residents and politicians. That is, until the U.S. relaxed its restrictions Nov. 8.
So while it’s good to finally have something that resembles pre-pandemic travel along the northern border, it’s still not perfect. And until lingering, and frustrating, restrictions are dropped, travel between the countries will continue to only be a trickle, rather than the free-flowing stream that existed prior to the pandemic.
This time, it’s not the Biden administration’s slow response, but rather Canada’s insistence on maddening and confusing testing requirements that will continue to limit cross-border travel in both directions.
Here’s the problem: Anyone entering Canada must be fully vaccinated and show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 72 hours before crossing the border. The U.S., meanwhile, only requires nonessential Canadian travelers to show proof of full vaccination.
Travelers — even Canadians who simply want to make a day trip to, say, Grand Forks, Roseau, Lancaster or Warroad — must get a COVID test before they’re allowed to return to Canada. It’s time-consuming, expensive and, in some of the towns along the border, almost impossible to accomplish. In a border town like Lancaster, the nearest place to get a test is Grand Forks or Thief River Falls, both of which are 60 miles away.
Whereas Canadians who are headed to Arizona or Texas for the winter can easily plan and get a COVID test before they return home in the spring, the rule will continue to drastically limit short trips over the border.
So yes, the border is technically open. But Canada now must lift its mandatory testing requirement for entering the country. Until then, don’t expect to see many of our northern friends shopping, dining and lodging in our towns. Quick trips to visit friends and family are probably out, too.
In August, Canada took the first great step in resuming travel between that country and the U.S. Meanwhile, American officials dragged their feet for another three months. Now, Canada again has an opportunity to lead this effort, one that is so important for communities on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border.
The Reuters news agency reported this week that the testing requirement is “actively being looked at” by Canadian government officials.
We have our fingers crossed.
This other view is the opinion of the editorial board of our sister publication, the Grand Forks Herald.