|Since Canada imposed COVID-19 travel restrictions in late March, more than four million people have entered the country. While that’s far fewer than normal, sightings of U.S. licence plates or international flights landing have still been sparking concerns that foreigners have found ways to sneak in. A small number of fines have been doled out to Americans skirting Canada’s travel rules, but the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) pointed out that there are many legitimate reasons why Americans may have entered the country.
To help reduce the spread of COVID-19, Canada only allows foreigners to enter for non-discretionary purposes. Those given a pass include qualifying international students and workers in industries deemed essential such as health, food services and transport. In June, the federal government relaxed its rules to allow foreigners to visit immediate family in Canada. Meanwhile, Canadian citizens, dual citizens and permanent residents, can still freely leave and re-enter the country. They must self-isolate for 14 days upon their return. Since Canada’s travel restrictions took effect, the CBSA has turned away thousands of foreigners. The agency reports that between March 22 and August 19, it denied entry to more than 16,000 people trying to cross from the U.S. by land or air. Close to half were rejected because they wanted to enter for recreational reasons such as sightseeing and shopping.
Kelley Lee, a professor of public health at Simon Fraser University, said it’s debatable whether all types of travel Canada has defined as “essential” belong in the category. She cites as an example Canada allowing Americans to drive through the country to Alaska for work or to return home. The rule has angered Canadians who fear it has become a loophole for Americans wanting to enter Canada for a vacation. Lee, who also studies global health governance, said another concern is that Canadians can still vacation abroad. Global Affairs Canada currently advises against non-essential international travel, but says it’s up to Canadians to decide if their trip is essential. “People are travelling on holiday abroad and coming back again, so that does worry me,” said Lee. “No travel is risk-free. We are risking infection every time.“