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Clarifying Canada-U.S. Border Travel & the Need to Remain Vigilant

covid us canada border closure

In recent days my office has received inquiries from local residents and businesses related to U.S. residents spending time in Burlington, and expressed their feelings of confusion and surprise as they thought the border was fully closed. This is understandably concerning as we see our friends and neighbours to the south deal with increasingly high numbers of new COVID-19 cases, with over 41,000 new cases reported just yesterday alone.

I want to stress that no country, no city, is out of the woods yet when it comes to this virus. We must continue to be vigilant in our approach to maintaining preventive health measures such as physical distancing, hand washing, staying home when sick, wearing masks when physical distancing is a challenge, and limiting our social circles and gathering sizes. Many new cases are young people, even those under 20. This virus does not limit itself to the elderly, and it continues to be possibly transmitted by those without any symptoms at all.

I want to provide some information and clarification about the current state of affairs to ensure our community is well-informed and empowered to make decisions for their families’ health and safety.

While this information is readily available on the Government of Canada website, I am repeating it here so that it can be easily accessed and shared by our community:

There are many factors that come into play when a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is determining if a person is permitted to enter Canada. It is important to note that the final determination is made by a border services officer (BSO) at the port of entry. They base their decision on the information presented to them at the time of entry into Canada.

In addition to the temporary entry restriction in place due to COVID-19, a person must meet the entry requirements under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and provide appropriate travel and immigration documentation.

Travel to Canada for discretionary reasons (non-essential), such as for tourism, recreation or entertainment is currently prohibited. Unless exempted, if a person does not have a non-discretionary (essential) reason to travel to Canada, a border services officer will deny them entry.

Some examples of non-discretionary travel purposes are:

  • work and study
  • critical infrastructure support
  • economic services and supply chains
  • health, immediate medical care, safety and security

As of June 8, 2020, 23:59 EDT, foreign nationals who are immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents, and who do not have COVID-19 or exhibit any signs or symptoms of COVID-19, and who have no reason to believe they have COVID-19, will 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.

Foreign nationals who are admitted into Canada pursuant to this exemption must quarantine for 14 days.

An immediate family member refers to a person’s:

  • spouse or common-law partner
  • dependent child, as defined in Section 2 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, or a dependent child of the person’s spouse or common-law partner
  • dependent child, as defined in Section 2 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, of a dependent child referred to in paragraph (b)
  • parent or step-parent or the parent or step-parent of the person’s spouse or common-law partner
  • guardian or tutor

A foreign national arriving from the United States, to enter Canada, must prove to the CBSA that they:

  • are travelling for a non-discretionary (essential) purpose or are only transiting or are an immediate family member
  • are not presenting signs or symptoms of COVID-19
  • have a plan to quarantine for 14 days, unless exempted

If the person is displaying symptoms of COVID-19, they will not be permitted to enter Canada, regardless of their reason for travel.

These measures are currently in effect until , and may be extended.

Foreign national travellers who are permitted to enter Canada must quarantine for 14 days.

Certain travellers are exempt from the requirements to quarantine so long as they are not exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. This includes those who:

  • cross the border regularly to ensure the continued flow of goods and essential services, or
  • receive or provide other essential services to Canadians

Providing false information is considered misrepresentation and has consequences. If a person provides false immigration information or false information about the purpose of their travel, they may be denied entry and/or be banned from returning to Canada.

Failure to comply with the current border restrictions is an offence under the Quarantine Act and could lead to:

  • up to $750,000 in fines, and/or
  • imprisonment of up to 6 months

If that person causes a risk of imminent death or serious bodily harm to another person while willfully or recklessly contravening this act or the regulations, they could be liable for:

  • up to $1,000,000 in fines, and/or
  • imprisonment of up to 3 years

Anyone with information on suspicious cross-border activities is encouraged to call the CBSA Border Watch Line (1-888-502-9060).

To report violations of the Quarantine Act (such as failure to abide by the mandatory 14-day quarantine or isolation upon entry to Canada), persons can contact our local police at 905-825-4722.

The bottom line is:

  • We are not out of the woods yet when it comes to this virus
  • There are valid reasons you may see a U.S. license plate in Burlington or a U.S. resident here
  • We must continue to be responsible and follow the advice of healthcare experts

Stay informed, stay healthy, and be kind to one another.

PLEASE NOTE: To stay updated on what the City of Burlington is doing regarding COVID-19, please visit the dedicated pages burlington.ca/coronavirus (and subscribe) and bit.ly/mayormeedwardCOVID19updates, and our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page — bit.ly/COVID19BurlingtonFAQ that are updated as new information becomes available.

A Burlington COVID-19 Task Force has been created to help support our community through this unprecedented emergency — updates will be provided at burlington.ca/COVID19taskforce.

To report an incident of non-compliance with provincial emergency orders, please contact the Halton Regional Police Service COVID-19 Hotline: 905-825-4722.

We’ve also created a dedicated page to feature the local organizations and businesses that have inspired us during the COVID-19 pandemic by taking action to support our community in new and creative ways — head to bit.ly/covidwallofinspiration.

HELPFUL RESOURCES & RELATED LINKS:

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Marianne Meed Ward

Marianne Meed Ward

A Better Burlington began in 2006 after my neighbours said they felt left out of city decisions, learning about them only after they’d been made. As journalist for 22 years, I thought “I can do something about that” and a website and newsletter were born. They’ve taken various forms and names over the years, but the intent remains: To let you know what’s happening at City Hall before decisions are made, so you can influence outcomes for A Better Burlington. The best decisions are made when elected representatives tap the wisdom of our community members, and welcome many different perspectives.This site allows residents to comment and debate with each other; our Commenting Guidelines established in 2016 aim to keep debate respectful. Got an idea or comment you want to share privately? Please, get in touch:

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