November 2nd, 2021 - 2:10am
November 1, 2021
Right Honourable Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
The Honourable Marco E. L. Mendicino, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Public Safety
Public Safety Canada
269 Laurier Avenue West
The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Health
100 Kent St
RE: Implementation of COVID-19 testing for land border crossings
Dear Prime Minister and Ministers,
Today, I am writing you regarding the situation at the land border crossings in Windsor-Detroit region.
My riding of Windsor West hosts four border crossings including the Ambassador Bridge, the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel, the freight railway tunnel, and the Detroit-Windsor Truck Ferry. These facilities provide access to the United States market on a 24/7 basis reaching over $1 billion a day approximating 40 percent of the trade between our two countries. Additionally, thousands of people cross the border daily during the pandemic who work Michigan as healthcare workers and in essential services such as power systems, railways, truck transport, ferries, and air crews. Furthermore, there are many dual citizens that reside on both sides of the border who have been legally crossing the border regardless of the land border restrictions throughout the course of the pandemic.
For the past 19 months the land border between the United States and Canada has been closed to all but essential travel. In communities such as Windsor-Detroit, the integration of the region is not only of the economy but of families. These restrictions have had significant strains and difficulties on individuals and families in addition to the challenges for businesses on both sides of the border.
As the Canada-United States border is reopening to fully vaccinated non-essential travellers on November 8, this news comes as a welcome relief to many in my community but the concerns about the cost of a PCR Covid 19 test have highlighted an issue that I have previously raised in several of my letters concerning the border and its reopening. These tests cost approximately $150-300 depending on where it is done and how quickly results are needed. For example, a family of five crossing into the US to reunite with their relatives that they have not seen in 19 months, would cost them $750-$1,500. This is not affordable for most families and is a continuation of the monetary barrier to crossing the border. This circumstance emphasizes the fact that those who have the resources have been able to fly to the US throughout this pandemic unimpeded by the land border restrictions intended to protect the public’s health and safety.
This issue could have been addressed before the reopening of the border if my repeated requests had been met that a Safe Border Task Force be set up constituting business, labour, local elected officials as well as administrators from relevant public agencies on both sides of the border to consult and develop a land crossing reopening plan well in advance of the scheduled reopening of the border. This would have helped build public confidence as well as discover the intricate and nuanced challenges that have arisen throughout this pandemic regarding the border. A focal point of this coordination of this task force could have been Canada’s Office of the Consul-General in Detroit, Michigan.
For example, on January 6, 2021 I wrote requesting the implementation of a rapid COVID-19 testing pilot project, to start with the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers whose union is in support of this, at the Windsor Detroit Border crossings. Since then, the government introduced mandatory PCR Covid-19 tests for non-essential travellers at all land border crossings on February 15. Unfortunately, this did not address the concerns raised in my previous letter nor did it protect CBSA officers since non-essential travellers at the land border crossings amount to less than ten percent of the traffic volume at the time.
While the need for virus monitoring and surveillance is necessary during a pandemic, the costs and burdens of this essential public health measure should not be shouldered by those that can least afford it or by families who have had to endure 19 months of separation with the attendant mental health and social impacts. In the United States, PCR Covid 19 testing is provided for free at pharmacies, funded by the US federal government. Accordingly, the Canadian federal government should fund PCR Covid 19 testing at no charge during the remainder of this pandemic. This would place all Canadian citizens and residents on a level playing field rather than continuing the discrimination based on income and wealth that has been apparent throughout the pandemic.
I understand that this is a challenging and complex situation but anticipating and engaging in all possibilities will strengthen public trust and confidence. This public health emergency requires all Canadians, people, businesses, civil society, and all levels of government to work together and engaging in endeavours to make the situation less burdensome on all of us. It is an opportunity to demonstrate unity and perseverance in the face of this crisis. Until this issue is resolved along with a comprehensive border plan that is established and implemented with the requisite wide-ranging consultation and input, a level of uncertainty and confusion will remain. This will continue the stress, anxiety, and fundamental unfairness that exists. The time to act is now.
I appreciate your time and attention to this request. I look forward to your response.
Brian Masse M. P.
NDP Innovation, Science and Economic Development Critic
cc: Drew Dilkens, Mayor of the City of Windsor