As Canadian border remains closed, concerns over security mount

Updated: Apr. 16, 2021 at 12:43 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - There is no sign the U.S. - Canadian border will open to leisure travel any time soon, raising fears it may remain closed through the summer.

“I’m not super optimistic for the beginning of summer. Fall’s a real possibility,” said Corey Fram, head of the 1000 Islands International Tourism Council.

Fram’s comments Friday came as the province of Ontario grapples with a spike in the number of COVID cases.

Dominic LeBlanc, Canada’s intergovernmental affairs minister, told CBC News “for the moment, there’s no active discussion” about easing border restrictions governing leisure travel.

“It’s not good news for businesses along the river, it’s not good news for American property owners who own property in Canada,” Fram said.

The border has been closed to most travel since the start of the pandemic.

Fram hopes that as more Canadians get vaccinated, the government there will consider lifting at least some restrictions on cross-border travel.

“Something will be better than the nothing we have right now. It’s hard to believe the border has been closed for more than a year,” he said.

Separately, there are new fears the U.S. - Canada border is being left relatively unguarded, as Border Patrol agents are shifted to the southern border to deal with the migrant crisis there.

“There’s a good portion of our patrol on the Mexican border. There are times when swaths of the northern border with Canada are not patrolled,” a source inside the northern Border Patrol told the New York Post.

A second northern Border Patrol agent told the newspaper, “I’ve never seen the manpower shortage along the Canadian border as low as it is now. It’s low across the board.”

North country congresswoman Elise Stefanik and central New York congressman John Katko have written President Biden, seeking information about how much staffing along the northern border has been cut.

“President Biden’s immigration, economic, humanitarian, and national security crisis at the US-Mexico border has in turn created a crisis at the US-Canada border. He must put an end to this madness, protect the American people, and prioritize the well-being of our Border Patrol Agents,” Stefanik said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for the Border Patrol said in an emailed statement that “Due to fluctuations along the Southwest Border, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has deployed more than 300 Border Patrol agents primarily from northern and coastal sectors to the SWB to support operations.

“CBP seeks to deter and disrupt human smuggling activities by transnational criminal organizations and ensure our personnel are properly equipped to maintain border security.”

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