TORONTO — Canadians are expressing frustration at still being unable to drive across the border to the U.S. for a casual visit, even though their fully vaccinated American counterparts will soon be able to do so.
The federal government recently said restrictions on U.S. citizens and permanent residents fully immunized against COVID-19 will ease Aug. 9.
Canadians, however, are seeing no similar relaxing of rules. On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security extended its COVID-19 restrictions on travel by land from Canada until at least Aug 21. Air travel to the U.S. is permitted with certain conditions.
For baseball fan Jeff Chatterton, the situation means he isn't able to drive across the border to take in a Toronto Blue Jays game like he used to do before the pandemic hit.
"I've done everything (that was) asked -- I've worn a mask, I've gotten the vaccines, I've stayed home. Science says I'm safe, when will governments honour that?" the Ontario resident said in an interview.
"I think it's asinine that we can have thousands of fans in Buffalo, cheering for our Blue Jays, but we're not safe enough to do the same because we're on the wrong side of a line."
Bob Slack and his wife are also wondering when restrictions will ease for Canadians at the land border.
The snowbirds live in Athens, Ont., and drive down to Winter Haven, Fla., every year during the colder months. They didn't make their annual trip after the pandemic hit but are eager to see their Florida home again.
"We're fully vaccinated," he said. "We'd like to get back."
Slack said he has been questioning when he can make plans to head south. He said he'd take a flight to Florida if he had to, but he would then have to ship his vehicle there.
"We’re going to go one way or another," he said, adding that he wanted to bring back some belongings to Canada. "It's one of those things, you know, you'd hate to book airfare and then the border opens."
Heather Kienle is also frustrated.
The Quebec resident is American and her husband is Canadian. They live just outside of Montreal with their young daughter. Kienle, who is pregnant, said she's eager for her family to visit her relatives in the States but that would mean her husband would have to take a flight into the country.
"I don't know what to think anymore. It's easier for us to drive since we're a family and it's more affordable and less risky, especially now with some of the variants," she said, noting the family could drive back together from the U.S. to Canada, but not the other way around.
"It's just expensive for a one-way ticket."
Tracy Banghart, an American whose family has a cabin in northern Ontario, said she was perplexed at the lack of a co-ordinated approach on the border.
The Virginia resident said her parents typically make a trip every summer to their place on Lake Temagami but weren't able to last year due to the pandemic. Banghart said she's grateful her family can now drive over the border for a visit to Canada and hoped rules would soon similarly loosen for Canadians.
"I just sort of expected everyone to have a plan and and it hasn't felt that way," she said.
Border experts say the Biden administration is likely not ready to open the U.S.-Mexico border, given the existing refugee crisis there, and wants both frontiers opened at the same time.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 21, 2021.
Elena De Luigi, The Canadian Press