‘We’re Not There Yet, But We’re Getting Closer’

During an announcement and briefing in Coquitlam, B.C., yesterday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked about reopening Canada’s borders to international travellers and the roll that vaccination rates would play in the planning of such a reopening.

Responding to a question on vaccination rates and the reopening of Canada’s borders, the Prime Minister said:

“First of all, all of our conversations right now are about what support we can give and what ease we can offer to vaccinated travellers. We know that if you continue to be not fully vaccinated you still have to do a two-week quarantine; there are still strict rules to prevent you from spreading COVID-19 or becoming ill yourself.”

He continued:

“Before we get to reflecting on what international travellers who are not fully vaccinated will be able to do or not do, we’re going to proceed step by step and I can tell you that the next step we’ll be looking at is what measures we can allow for international travellers who are fully vaccinated. That will be our first focus and we will have more to say [on that] in the coming weeks.”

Asked about the border, Trudeau said:

“I can understand entirely why people are so eager to see the end of this pandemic and move forward. We are not there yet. We are getting much closer. We are seeing case counts drop right across the country. More importantly, we’re seeing the vaccination rates [in Canada] lead the world …”

He continued:

“BC has done a great job getting vaccines into arms and we all know we’re close to the end of this pandemic, but we’re not there yet. We’re going to continue to work with the provinces. We’ll continue the First Ministers meetings to talk about when and how we need to safely reopening. We’ll continue to work with the White House and our American partners coordinating as much as possible, but we will make sure that at every step of the way that the safety of Canadians and the strength of our reopening is first and foremost.”

The Prime Minister also responded to a question on the industry’s concern that a federal election would be called before the government had released a reopening plan for this country’s travel and tourism sector. Trudeau said that:

“… My focus is on supporting Canadians in continuing to get through this pandemic and in continuing to recover our economies. And yes, I know how difficult this past year and a half has been for our tourism sector and that’s why we have given unprecedented supports to businesses – both small and large – that have been affected by the pandemic, which was not their fault and they needed our support – and we were there for them.”

The Prime Minister said;

“We will continue to do everything we can to reopen safely and rapidly, but you did mention ‘wondering when unvaccinated tourists can start coming to Canada and I can tell you right now that’s not going to happen for quite a while. We need to continue to ensure that the safety of Canadians and all the sacrifices that so many people have made over the past many, many months are not for nothing.

He continued:

“… We recognize the work that has been done by extraordinary partnerships across all [levels] of government, by community organizations and leaders and by ordinary Canadians who have been there for each other; been there for their neighbours; been there for the elderly; been there for your young people. These are the things that have got us through this pandemic and we are not going to jeopardize that by moving too quickly. We will move responsibly forward. We will continue the reopening of our borders, but we will do it in a way that ensures the ongoing safety of all Canadians.”

Asked about metrics for reopening the country’s borders, the Prime Minister responded:

“I think we all want to get back to as much normal as possible and even make sure that that normal is better than it was before, but we’re not quite through that pandemic yet. We still have to be careful. We still have to be vigilant. We have taken a significant step after having shutdown the borders almost entirely for a year and a half.  We’ve now allowed for people who are fully vaccinated, people who are Canadians, permanent residents, people who have the right to travel during this pandemic to come back without having to quarantine for two weeks. That is a big step and it encourages everyone also to make sure they’re moving forward with vaccinations. Everyone’s got to get vaccinated if we’re going to get through this as a community and as a country.”

And PM Trudeau made it clear:

“We are very eager to move forward on next steps and I know the tourism industry is very eager as well to start welcoming fully vaccinated tourists from around the world and we’re going to make sure we’re moving forward on that in the coming weeks. But we have to make sure, however, every step of the way, that we are not sliding back; not having to re-close; not having to go yo-yo-ing again in our openings and closings – that’s what we all want to avoid. So, taking it methodically and responsibly is the way we’re going to first and foremost continue to keep Canadians safe and ensure that our recovery happens as smoothly and quickly as it possibly can safely.”