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Canada Border Services official shares perspective on post-COVID reopening of US-Canada border

Biden and Trudeau reportedly discussed the border during the G-7 summit meeting, but no agreement has been announced yet.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — There were reports that President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would discuss the border situation between the two countries during the G-7 summit meeting in England last weekend, but when it comes to an actual reopening, it's still very much a work in progress.

The countries' leaders have been talking and commercial traffic is rising, but there is reportedly no deal for travelers with a lot of COVID restrictions still in Canada. 

But 2 On Your Side did speak with Michael Prosia who is the Southern Ontario region assistant director for the Canada Border Services Agency about what we might see when it reopens.

Those border booths operated by the inspectors and officers of the Canada Border Services Agency may be largely quiet for a while yet with an ongoing hold since March 2020 for any entry by U.S. citizens not deemed to have essential business in that country

Reuters and other news agencies report that there were border discussions between Trudeau and Biden at the summit meeting; however, Canadian officials are still holding back while it waits for more of its citizens to be vaccinated. 

Despite prodding from US politicians like Senator Schumer and Congressman Higgins and others, Trudeau maintains he must put the safety of his country's population first, saying "now is not the right time to travel."

Also Ontario province just restarted outdoor dining only and will only lift travel restrictions with its neighboring Quebec province this week. That's like traveling from New York to Pennsylvania and running into police checkpoints and roadblocks. As Prosia explains, "There have been restrictions on inter-provincial travel."

The Canadian Border Services official did say when the border reopens it might take extra time to determine vaccination status for a U.S. traveler seeking entry. 

"I wouldn't say it will be difficult. But it will certainly add time to the crossing process," Prosia said. "So having to validate that - more like validation as you say - that could take additional time. Where either government decides to go in terms of a digital credential potentially - I can't speak to any of that."

New York State of course has been pushing the Excelsior Pass App and we do have vaccination cards. So otherwise can we expect relatively easy entry when the border does reopen?

"Figuring out how that's gonna look once restrictions start to ease up, how that process will work between the two countries - I don't think there's been a decision on that piece yet," Prosia said.

But Prosia does say CBSA inspectors have been on the job all along and some were even reassigned to help handle commercial truck traffic across the border which he says is approaching pre-COVID levels. 

We also asked if anyone has tried to get across the border without proving they have essential business. 

"We have seen individuals who have attempted to enter for discretionary purposes and generally that's an 'education' piece where we're returning them back to the United States under the guidance of the travel restrictions currently in place," Prosia said.

The CBSA did put out warnings that US boaters should not go into Canadian waters where the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have boat patrols. Anyone caught trying to sneak into Canada could face fines, imprisonment and the seizure of their boat. 

The next decision by the Canadian government is expected next week on June 21 and some have expressed hope the border could start to be open in July. But there are no guarantees with Canada's slower vaccination rate and tougher travel restrictions.