COVID-19 in B.C.: Canada Border Services Agency ramps up regulations for U.S. travellers using Alaska loophole

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      Reports about U.S. license plates spotted in Canada has been a contentious issue in British Columbia for some time, as the number of COVID-19 cases continue to soar south of the border.

      B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has tried to allay fears several times by stating that she knows for a fact that the majority of these license plates belong to Canadians returning from the U.S.

      However, B.C. Premier John Horgan remained concerned about the issue and stated on July 2 that he had asked Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland to address the issue of the Alaska loophole, which allows Americans to enter Canada if they are heading to Alaska.

      The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) announced today (July 30) that in order to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, it is implementing new temporary restrictions on all non-essential travel, including optional or discretionary travel, across the Canada-U.S. border. Non-discretionary travel includes going to work or travelling to a primary residence. All discretionary travel from the U.S. has been prohibited since March 21.

      As of midnight on July 31, amended rules and additional entry conditions will apply to all travellers entering Canada from the U.S. to or from Alaska. All travellers, who should have documentation to demonstrate the purpose of their travel, must meet requirements for entry into Canada.

      All foreign nationals with Alaska as a destination must enter at one of five CBSA ports of entry: Abbotsford-Huntingdon, B.C.; Kingsgate, B.C.; Osoyoos, B.C.; Coutts, Alberta; and North Portal, Saskatchewan. Travellers heading to Alaska who arrive at a non-designated port will be denied entry and redirected to identified entry points. Meanwhile, those entering Canada from Alaska can do so at any port of entry.

      Osoyoos border crossing

      Anyone with any signs or symptoms of COVID-19, for all reasons for travel, will be denied entry. Anyone who provides false information to a border security officer may lead to being denied entry or being banned from entering Canada.

      While those entering will be permitted a period of stay to complete travel, they will be limited to travel using the most direct route from the point of entry into Canada to the intended point of exit from Canada.

      All national parks, leisure sites, and tourism activities must be avoided by these travellers.

      Prior to re-entering the U.S., these travellers are required to report to the nearest CBSA port of entry to confirm their exit from Canada.

      These travellers will also receive a vehicle “hang tag” that they must attach to their rearview mirror for the duration of their trip. The tag will indicate the date they must depart from Canada, and will include a reminder to travellers to comply with all conditions under the Quarantine and Emergencies Act and public and health safety measures.

      At any time, border services officers are capable of imposing additional measures as necessary.

      A Public Health Agency of Canada handout will instruct travellers to avoid contact with others, remain in their vehicle as much as possible, not make any unnecessary stops, practise physical distancing, pay at the pump for gas, use drive-throughs for food, wear a mask or face covering, and practise hygiene practises if using rest areas.

      Anyone who fails to comply with the restrictions could face fines of up to $750,000 and/or imprisonment of up to six months. Any traveller who causes serious bodily harm or risk of imminent death to another person while not following the regulations could face up to $1,000,000 in fines and/or a prison sentence of up to three years.

      Full details are available at the CBSA website.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.