By the end of the month, a trip to Canada will likely be easier for some and – for the first time in more than two years – possible for others.
Multiple news outlets are reporting that Canada is expected to drop the vaccine requirement for people entering Canada as well as the requirement to fill out the ArriveCan app.
The moves are expected to take place by the end of the month , the Associated Press reported based on information provided to it by an official familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorized to speak publicly about it.
Canada is also expected to stop random Covid-19 testing at airports.
The United States still requires foreign travelers to be vaccinated when they enter the country.
The official told the AP that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has to sign off on the changes.
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Rep. Brian Higgins is hopeful that the Canadian government will move toward lifting its stringent travel requirements for US citizens crossing the border into Canada and make masks and the glitchy ArriveCan mobile app for voluntary air travelers.
On Tuesday, a coalition of US and Canadian officials in border communities including Niagara Falls, NY, Mayor Robert Restaino and Niagara Falls, Ont., Mayor Jim Diodati sent an open letter to Trudeau and President Biden asking to “return the Canada/USA border to a normal pre-pandemic state.”
The letter said, “When this pandemic began, our border communities supported public health measures and federal recommendations. When Covid-19 was at its peak and border measures were effective at slowing transmission rates, we did our part to keep Canadians and Americans safe. Now, we have been left behind in the recovery effort as both countries have largely returned to normal daily life.”
The letter points out that many restrictions have been lifted for air travel but not for land crossings.
Following reports that the Canadian government was not going to extend their restrictions again, Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, called on the US to end its Covid-related restrictions at the border with Canada.
“The time is long overdue for the United States to cease its own COVID-19-related restrictions on our northern border,” Higgins said in an emailed statement.
The US policy requires foreigners entering the country to show proof of Covid-19 vaccination to cross the border, but Higgins said that it’s not enforced.
“In reality, [U.S. Customs and Border Protection] officers are not requesting that Canadians provide their proof of vaccination unless a vehicle is diverted to secondary inspection for some other, unrelated reason,” Higgins said. “This obvious contradiction between policy and practice underscores fact that the policy is accomplishing no public health or border security goals while it imposes an unnecessary burden on the economies of northern border communities and an unnecessary hardship on northern border families.”
The border between the US and Canada was shut down in March 2020 as Covid-19 began to spread across the globe. The Canadian border reopened in August 2021 and the US side opened its border in November 2021.
But both sides have imposed different restrictions.
While most restrictions have been lifted for entering the US, Canada’s rules have continued. Among the least popular of the Canadian restrictions is the ArriveCan app. Canada has required visitors to fill out the ArriveCan app before entering the country, which includes photographing travel documents and proof of vaccination. Some have complained that they do not have the digital technology skills to complete the app, or the smartphone to carry it.
Cross-border traffic is still far below pre-pandemic rates, said Patrick Kaler, the president and CEO of Visit Buffalo Niagara.
“Our numbers are still way down,” he said. “Just looking at August 2019 over August 2022, we are down 42.3%.”
In 2019, 5.1 million people crossed the border at the Erie and Niagara county border crossings, he said. Through August of this year, 1.7 million people crossed the border in the Buffalo Niagara area, Kaler said.
Many on both sides of the border are eager for restrictions to be lifted – especially with NFL football in full swing and hockey about to begin, as well as the holiday shopping season just around the corner.
Visit Buffalo Niagara has launched a “Buffalo loves Canada” tourism campaign across the border to get Canadians thinking about visiting Western New York, Kaler said. The organization also hosted travel writers and bloggers from the Toronto area and from around Canada during the summer to help spread the word. “Their articles will amplify the destination too.”