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

Port Hardy called in record number of black bear sightings last year

Conservation Officers attended 74 of the 314 calls made

North Island recreation camping site closed due to vandalism

Ruined picnic tables are the main damage

Port McNeill’s outdoor swimming pool will stay closed this summer

The Town of Port McNeill typically hires 12-13 staff for the pool every year.

Bird contacting wires causes massive Port Hardy power outage

The power outage started at 1:18 p.m. and lasted until 3:00 p.m.

Port Hardy Salvation Army serving lunch daily during pandemic

Centre is closed to the public, but overnight shelter, daily lunch and one-on-one services available

March dental conference key to many of B.C.’s COVID-19 cases

Early infections from China, Iran were quickly contained

Cortes Island affordable housing project hangs by a thread

Regional decision makers resort to COVID-19 concerns despite virtual meeting option and push hearing to September

MAP: Dr. Henry reveals which B.C. regions have seen most COVID-19 cases

B.C. health officials release a first look at how the novel coronavirus has reached all corners of the province

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

Seniors to receive up to $500 in promised COVID-19 emergency aid in early July

The Liberal government first promised the extra help in mid-May, but had to create a new system to deliver the aid

VIDEO: Revelstoke bear wanders into Animal House pet store

Staff got ready to chase it out with a broom

Man found dead in his tent at Island homeless camp

Facebook posts tell of personal struggles and attempts to stay clean and sober

New study is first full list of species that only exist in Canada

Almost 40 per cent of them are critically imperilled or imperilled and eight are already extinct

Most Read