Preliminary talks on lifting restrictions along the Canada-U.S. border are underway, according to an official with direct knowledge of the file.
CBC News has confirmed initial conversations between Canada and the U.S. are happening at the officials level, meaning the politicians who ultimately will make the decision are not directly involved in those talks yet.
The official said no decisions are expected in the short term, but that there is hope for “positive news as summer progresses,” especially in light of the increase in vaccination rates in Canada.
The official also cautioned that crushing the third wave remains the priority at the moment.
CBC News is not naming the official because the individual is not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. Bloomberg News was first to report this development on Friday.
The border has been closed to non-essential travel for purposes such as tourism and recreation since March 2020. The closure agreement between Ottawa and Washington is expected to be renewed on May 21.
The agreement permits entry to individuals for compassionate purposes, such as attending a funeral or applying for refugee status.
People arriving at Canada’s land border with the United States are required to take a COVID-19 test when they enter the country and a second test after they have isolated themselves at home for 14 days.
Ford asks Trudeau to tighten border
On Feb. 22, 2021, the federal government implemented new quarantine measures at airports requiring all air travellers returning from non-essential trips abroad to isolate in a federally mandated facility for up to 72 hours while they await the results of a polymerase chain reaction test, commonly known as a PCR test, for COVID-19.
The three-day mandatory quarantine stay at a federally designated facility can cost as much as $2,000 per person. In a series of letters to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ford has asked for those measures to be extended to the land border.
The federal government has batted away that request, saying that there are 117 points of entry that Canada shares with the U.S. and many of them are far away from hotels.
“The safest and most effective way to manage people who are arriving at our borders by land is by the system that we have put in place,” Public Safety Minister Bill Blair told CBC News Network’s Power & Politics Thursday.
Blair said Canadians returning by land from the U.S. while contained in their cars, with their families, and going directly home after their tests to quarantine for two weeks “is the safest way to manage those people.”