Federal government clamps down on 'Alaska loophole' at Canada/US border

Jul 30 2020, 11:28 am

While the Canada/US border is still officially closed to non-essential travel, a number of Americans have still been making their way into Canada through what’s been dubbed the ‘Alaska loophole.”

According to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), this “loophole” allows healthy individuals who are non-symptomatic of COVID-19 to travel through Canada for “non-discretionary purposes,” such as returning home to Alaska. Other non-discretionary purposes include things like work or travelling/returning to a primary residence.

However, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, there have recent reports of Americans entering Canada under the guise of this loophole simply as a way to visit and vacation in BC.

And earlier this month, BC Premier John Horgan expressed his concerns with US travellers exploiting the loophole for their own purposes.

“You shouldn’t be stopping along the way [to Alaska] to enjoy the sights and sounds of British Columbia,” he said at the time.

Now, the federal government has announced it is clamping down on this loophole in an effort to further restrict non-essential US visitors attempting to make their way into Canada.

In a statement on Thursday, the CBSA said as of July 31, 2020, at 12:01 am PST, “stricter rules and additional entry conditions will be imposed on travellers transiting through Canada to Alaska for a non-discretionary purpose.”

These measures, the agency said, “are put in place to further reduce the risk of introduction of COVID-19 cases and to minimize the amount of time that in-transit travellers are in Canada.”

Specifically, the CBSA said in-transit foreign nationals must enter Canada at one of the five identified CBSA ports of entry (POE):

  • Abbotsford-Huntingdon (British Columbia)
  • Coutts (Alberta)
  • Kingsgate (British Columbia)
  • North Portal (Saskatchewan)
  • Osoyoos (British Columbia)

Upon arrival at one of the designated POE, the CBSA said in-transit travellers must satisfy a BSO that they meet the requirements for entry into Canada. “Travellers are encouraged to have documentation that will demonstrate their purpose of travel,” the agency added. “The final decision is made by a BSO, based on the information available to them at the time of entry.”

Travellers who arrive at a non-identified POE for the purpose of transiting to Alaska will be denied entry and advised to go to one of the five identified POEs.

Following admission into Canada, in-transit travellers are provided with a Public Health Agency of Canada handout.

As well, travellers will:

  • Be allowed a “reasonable period” of stay to carry out the transit (although the exact amount of time was not specified);
  • Be limited to travel within Canada using the “most direct route” from the POE to the intended POE of exit, while avoiding all national parks, leisure sites and tourism activities;
  • Be required, before entering the US, to report to the nearest CBSA POE to confirm their exit from Canada.

In-transit travellers will be issued a vehicle “hang tag” to be attached to their rearview mirror for the duration of their trip to or from Alaska to support compliance while they are in Canada.

“The front of the tag will make it clear that the travellers are transiting and include the date they must depart Canada,” said the CBSA. “The back of the tag will remind travellers to comply with all conditions imposed upon entry and the Quarantine and Emergencies Acts and a list of public health and safety measures to follow.”

The CBSA said that no matter the reason for travel, “all foreign nationals who have COVID-19 or exhibit any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 will not be allowed to enter Canada.”

They also noted that providing false information to a BSO may lead to consequences such as being denied entry and/or banned from returning to Canada.

Earlier this month, it was announced that the border closure would remain in place until at least August 21.

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