Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland speaks to members of the media on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 6, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

‘Strongly’ and diplomatically, Canada tries to block U.S. soldiers at border

The two countries already have a mutual ban in place on non-essential travel

The federal Liberal government used some of the sternest language diplomacy allows Thursday as it condemned a White House proposal to send soldiers to the Canada-U.S. border, ostensibly to keep illegal migrants from spreading COVID-19.

Canada has argued “forcefully” against the idea, said Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who was reluctant to characterize the status of the proposal — first reported by Global News — beyond saying a U.S. decision “has not yet been acted upon or fully taken.”

But Freeland, who is normally pointed in refusing to conduct private negotiations in public, made clear that the idea is not finding favour in Ottawa.

“Canada is strongly opposed to this U.S. proposal and we have made that opposition very, very clear to our American counterparts,” she told a media briefing in the national capital.

Indeed, it may never come to pass, she suggested: countries around the world, including Canada, have been responding with uncharacteristic speed and urgency to an escalating global emergency — a process that involves discussing any and all measures, no matter how drastic, even if they don’t come to fruition.

“We understand the concerns about the coronavirus, we share those concerns very much,” Freeland said.

“What we have said is, ‘We really do not believe at all that there would be a public-health justification for you to take this action, of course it’s up to you to decide for yourselves.’ And we’ve said we really don’t think this is the right way to treat a trusted friend and military ally.”

The two countries already have a mutual ban in place on non-essential travel, but the movement of trade, commerce and cross-border workers has been allowed to continue — a clear indication that both Ottawa and the White House have embraced the economic importance of avoiding a complete shutdown at the border.

“Canada and the U.S. have the longest unmilitarized border in the world, and it is very much in both of our interests for it to remain that way,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during his own daily appearance outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa.

It is no secret, however, that President Donald Trump has long been seized with securing his country’s southern border with Mexico, and has recently been talking about fortifying those efforts under the pretence of protecting Americans from the novel coronavirus.

“We will continue to consider additional actions to ensure federal law enforcement personnel at our borders have the resources and operational support needed to address the profound public health threat of uncontrolled cross-border movement during a pandemic,” the Trump administration said in a statement attributed to a senior official.

“Protecting our border is a national security priority and without proper precautions, which can only happen through orderly, lawful entry at the borders, the virus could pose greater risk to migrants, travelers, law enforcement personnel, health care professionals, and all Americans.”

Trump has also made it clear that in an election year, he is chafing for a return to some form of economic normalcy, and sooner rather than later — the April 12 Easter weekend is his hoped-for timeline, a date that has left public-health officials incredulous.

“There is still a long battle ahead, but our efforts are already paying dividends,” Trump wrote in a letter to governors the White House released Thursday that spells out plans to expand surveillance testing in order to classify the risk of infection on a county-by-county basis.

The idea, the letter said, is to give state and local officials the information they need to decide whether to maintain, increase or relax their protective efforts.

“As we enhance protections against the virus, Americans across the country are hoping the day will soon arrive when they can resume their normal economic, social and religious lives.”

On Monday, the U.S. announced a 30-day agreement with both Canada and Mexico that includes immediately returning any illegal migrants to the country from which they arrived, or to their countries of origin if that isn’t possible, rather than holding them at facilities in the U.S.

As part of the trilateral agreement announced earlier this week, Canada has agreed to turn away so-called “irregular” migrants who cross the border somewhere other than at an official port of entry.

When it comes to which of America’s land borders pose the greatest security threat, it’s no contest.

Over the course of fiscal 2017, the most recent year for which data is available, the U.S. Border Patrol apprehended nearly 304,000 illegal migrants along its southwestern border in Texas, Arizona and California, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Over that same period, there were only 3,000 apprehensions along the Canada-U.S. border — just one per cent of the total.

James McCarten , The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Health care priorities debated following surprise funding announcement

Surprise provincial funding stirs debate on local health care priorities during regional meeting

Fernie treated to a Tiny Concert in the Park

Shred Kelly members Tim Newton and Sage McBride played a live concert for the first time since February

Community groups receive funding through annual CFKR grants

Groups throughout the entire Elk Valley were supported through this year’s round of funding

Local author launches first novel

The Frigid Pass is a dystopian novel set in Cranbrook, British Columbia

Major construction project to begin in Sparwood

Residents will notice crews working throughout August and September this year

B.C. records 30-50 new COVID-19 cases a day over weekend, no new deaths

Many of those testing positive were identified by contact tracing for being linked to other confirmed infections

Over half of Americans oppose Trump tariff on Canadian aluminum: survey

The survey was conducted Aug. 7 to 9 among 1,513 Canadians and 1,003 Americans

Oh baby, what a birthday gift: $2.8M raised to help B.C. boy with rare disease

‘We are very thankful to everybody,’ Aryan Deol’s father says

‘Huckleberry’ the bear killed after B.C. residents admit to leaving garbage out for videos

North Shore Black Bear Society said it was local residents who created a ‘death sentence’ for bear

Police investigating after insults, expletives yelled at federal minister’s staff

A 90-second video circulating on social media appears to have been shot by the person who was yelling

5 B.C. First Nations call out Canada for ‘discriminatory’ food fish practices

West Coast nations say government ignoring court-won right to chinook and coho

Lost dog reunited with family 3 months after going missing on remote B.C. trail

‘The poor thing was skin and bones,’ says one of its Vancouver Island rescuers

B.C. marine ecologist wants Canada to sink its teeth into shark protection

Gulf Islands scientist says top predator under shocking threat from human behaviour

Rent-relief program becomes new front in fight between Liberals, opposition

Opposition trying to draw parallels between decision to have Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. run program and the WE controversy

Most Read