New rules at Canadian land border welcomed by N.B. residents

ST. STEPHEN, N.B. — New rules at the Canada/U.S.A. land border crossings came into effect Monday and are being welcomed by border communities in New Brunswick.

Travel barriers at the border have altered daily life in cross-border neighbours St. Stephen, N.B. and Calais, Maine.

Many New Brunswick residents would often make a quick trip across the Canadian border to shop in Maine, but that hasn’t been the case in nearly a year.

“Last time I was over in Calais was definitely over a year ago,” says St. Stephen resident Tharon Leslie.

As of Monday, another change went into effect at the border.

Non-essential travellers trying to enter Canada by land must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result taken up to three days before arrival at the border.

Non-essential travellers can also present a positive COVID-19 test result, provided it was taken 14 to 90 days before arrival at the border.

The 14-day quarantine requirement remains mandatory for anyone entering New Brunswick.

It seems that most residents in St. Stephen support the new rules, even those who would like to make the crossing.

“All my friends were basically from over there, I didn’t really hang out with anyone here,” says St. Stephen resident Hannah White. “It sucks not being able to go see them.”

“I’m happy to see them tighten up on travel restrictions into the province, because almost all cases have been travel related,” says St. Stephen resident Brian Donnelly. “At the same time, my heart goes out to those who have family across the border.

“Our community is doing alright here, and I’d like to keep us all safe that way,” says resident Cher Donnelly.

The new rules will not affect most of the people who make the crossing every day.

Essential workers, who currently account for about 93 per cent of land border traffic, are exempt from the new rule, which raises questions about how effective the increase rules will be.

“Who is more of a threat? A trucker who travelled through 14 states, who slept in his truck, and eat[s] at truck stops, or just two people travelling in Canada?” asks CTV News Public Safety Analyst Chris Lewis. “So that’s all very confusing to me.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insists the new requirements will make a difference.

“These border measures will help stop the spread of COVID-19 and new variants,” he said in Ottawa on Friday.

But health experts aren’t so sure, pointing to five different variants now circulating in the U.S.

“It’s not going to keep the virus out,” Kelley Lee, a professor at the Simon Fraser University, told CTV News. “We know that people often need to be tested multiple times before the virus is detected in their system. We know there are false negatives, we also know people can be exposed during those 72 hours.”

Those who do not provide a negative test or other accepted proof at the border face fines up to $3,000.

Starting on Feb. 22, non-essential travellers will also be required to take a COVID-19 test at the border as well as at the end of their 14-day quarantine.

Trudeau says some Canadians can apply for a special exception to the new rules and that border officials will assess each person on a case-by-case basis.