Ontario mayors talk Canada-U.S. border re-opening with public safety minister

Shelby Thevenot
Published: June 3, 2021

A meeting with Ontario mayors from border cities and the public safety minister suggests travel restrictions may start to ease on the southern border by the end of June.

Mayor Drew Dilkens from Windsor told iHeartRadio that while the feds did not provide an official date, they are expecting enough Canadians to be vaccinated by June 21 to consider easing restrictions on travel between Canada and the U.S. Earlier in May, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested that 75 per cent of Canadians would have to be vaccinated and coronavirus cases would have to remain low in order to scale back restrictions.

Coronavirus cases are down in both countries, the U.S. seeing the lowest numbers since March 2020 and Canada is down to October levels. About 41 per cent of the U.S. is fully vaccinated, and about 58 per cent of Canadians have received one dose with only five per cent being fully vaccinated.

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The mayor of Niagara Falls, Jim Diodati, also said Public Safety Minister Bill Blair is expecting 75 per cent of Canadians to have their first dose and 20 per cent to be fully vaccinated by June 21, then for 75 per cent of the population to be fully vaccinated by July 21. In an interview with CHCH TV, Diodati said the federal government is looking at gradually opening up the border, and is optimistic that a reopening plan will be out soon.

The minister of public safety's spokesperson, James Cudmore, told CIC News the improved public health conditions following increased vaccination rates have "opened the door to the possibility of an easing or refinement of border measures, aligned with the best advice of public health experts." Cudmore also noted that current measures "could be extended again" depending on the situation in three weeks time.

"Until we can be assured, based on the advice that we receive from our public health officials and our evaluation of those conditions is such that we believe that those restrictions can be lifted safely, we'll keep them in place,” Cudmore wrote to CIC News, quoting Minister Blair.

Trudeau himself has said that Canada is in no rush to reopen the border, and neither are Canadians, according to a recent Angus Reid poll. Nearly half of Canadians in that survey say the border should stay closed until September.

"We're on the right path, but we'll make our decisions based on the interests of Canadians and not based on what other countries want,” Trudeau told reporters at a press conference in Ottawa, the nation's capital.

Only the federal government that can make the rules on border restrictions. Provinces have the power to enact certain public health measures, or ask for regional measures like the Ontario international student ban, which never came to fruition. At the end of the day, decisions on travel restrictions are a federal government collaboration with Health Canada.

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