Closure of the Canada-U.S. Border and other travel restrictions

Closure of the Canada-U.S. Border and other travel restrictions

The Canadian response to restricting entry to the country for non-citizens changed quickly since the COVID-19 outbreak. Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister, announced that the border between Canada and the United States would be closed to “non essential travel” while still allowing medical supplies, food, and goods to pass.

Trudeau announced two days ago that Canada would only allow Americans to enter the country. They are now included.

The Canadian government’s decision to close its borders to non-citizens was a surprise.

Patty Hajdu, the Health Minister at the time, said that there was no evidence indicating travel restrictions would be effective. Trudeau emphasized the importance of focusing Canada’s efforts on scientifically supported methods to slow the spread of the disease.

Within a few days, the position of open borders based on scientific evidence had shifted. Canada is not the only country to have imposed travel restrictions. Travel restrictions have been implemented by many nations as the epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic moves from China to Europe. These restrictions are based on the assumption that viruses can be contained in ports of entry.

This is false, and especially so if the virus has already been detected in the country that isolates you.

Travel restrictions and border closings

World Health Organization warns against imposing travel restrictions and closing borders to combat the coronavirus.

Evidence shows that in general, restricting movement of people or goods during public-health emergencies is ineffective and can divert resources away from other interventions.“. – World Health Organization.

This virus, however, is a migration issue for nations that are already caught in the xenophobic politics of populism. In some of our research, we explore how countries create ingroups by creating outliers.

We can see that governments have handled border closures, travel restrictions, and other issues in different ways. But we also notice that politicians and political parties use disparate methods to convince voters that they are the legitimate authorities in charge.

Read more: Coronavirus Weekly: expert analysis from The Conversation global network

Yet, in developed states with political factions suspicious towards migrants , closing borders and even restricting the travel of nationals may be attractive. For countries where public health infrastructures become inadequate, social structures become limited and alternatives are sorely lacking, closing the borders turns attention outwards.

Even leaders who are globally minded may find it difficult to shut down borders when there is division in a country . Trudeau’s hesitation in the beginning to ban foreigners’ travel to Canada can be interpreted as an attempt to avoid our policy devolving into isolationism. Canada has restricted border crossings despite being among the very last countries to do so.

Travel restrictions are not only a waste of resources, but also a real cost to human life.

On March 16, 2020, Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer for Canada is seen giving a press conference on a TV in the background. International travellers are arriving at Vancouver International Airport. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Texas, the 10th-largest economy in the world, will be affected by the restrictions on trade between Mexico and the U.S. About 1 million jobs in Texas depend on cross-border commerce with Mexico. This economic disruption will make both Mexicans, and Texans, poorer and more desperate.

Travel restrictions and nationalism

Travel bans are an assertion of isolationist and nationalist power, not science.

The president of the United States Donald Trump, in his March 11, 2019 national address, suggested that other countries were responsible for the “foreign disease.” He also instituted a travel ban from Europe to the United States except for returning Americans. These restrictions, such as the “Muslim Travel Ban,” and the ending of Temporary Protection Status for certain nationalities, are a part of Trump’s isolationist agenda.

The 21st Century may be a century of migrants. The global economic instability, climate change, and civil unrest have all contributed to a record number of people moving across borders.

Populism in the pandemic

Before COVID-19, we had already seen a rise in hate crimes and antimigrant sentiment . In New York City, for instance, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has expressed his “disgust” in response to a recent rash of racist behavior affecting Chinatown business. Since the pandemic declaration, our most racist instincts have come to the forefront.

The Canadian principle of inclusion and dignity has been, and will continue to be, consistent in protecting vulnerable people regardless of their racialization or ethnicity. Canada has moved away from this resolve and is now in lockstep with the rest of the world. Instead of uniting across national boundaries to face a common danger, we shut out the rest of the world to respond to a more convenient threat that is external and foreign.

On March 16, 2020, Quebec healthcare workers sent by the city to Trudeau Airport hand out informational pamphlets about COVID-19 procedures for passengers arriving from overseas. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

COVID-19 can be a real medical challenge.

The illness is not the only thing that matters. It’s also a social, political and economic event. Its cause, its trajectory, and its long-term effects reveal more about our institutions. Canada will be able to learn valuable lessons about the evolution of health care systems, inclusion structures in society and resilience at a national level. After the pandemic, Canada will have to reconcile its inclusive image with the reality of closed borders.

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