'Let's get on with our lives': Canada-U.S. border towns excited for loosening travel restrictions

·3 min read
Jim Willett, mayor of Coutts, Alta., says there are many friendships and family ties across the U.S.-Canada border.  (Submitted by Jim Willett - image credit)
Jim Willett, mayor of Coutts, Alta., says there are many friendships and family ties across the U.S.-Canada border. (Submitted by Jim Willett - image credit)

Some residents of a small town in southern Alberta are eager to see the United States land border reopen to fully-vaccinated Canadians next month.

Kelly Clark, a customs broker in Coutts, Alta., said she crosses the Canada-U.S. border twice a day, five days a week, as an essential worker. Despite all her travel into the U.S., it's been almost two years since Clark has seen her daughter and grandson in Sweetgrass, Mont., a town just across the border from Coutts.

Clark spoke to CBC News over the phone just as she was crossing the border into the U.S. for work. She said it's been frustrating not being able to see her family members for so long.

"I think [the border] just needs to fully open up, and let's get on with our lives," Clark said.

Canada opened its borders to fully vaccinated U.S. residents in early August. The U.S. announced a plan on Tuesday to begin reopening its land borders with Canada and Mexico, which have been closed for non-essential travel since March 2020.

The exact date of the border reopening has yet to be announced, but U.S. officials said fully vaccinated travellers will not be required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test upon entry.

'A lot of excitement'

Jim Willett, mayor of Coutts, said residents of his town are looking forward to travelling into the U.S.

"There's a lot of excitement here," he told the CBC's Calgary Eyeopener.

Vincent Bonnay/Radio-Canada
Vincent Bonnay/Radio-Canada

Willett said the only drawback is the Canadian border restriction that still requires all recreational travellers to show proof of a negative PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before travelling.

Clark is also frustrated by this rule.

"It won't be beneficial for people who don't want to go down for an evening or a weekend or just a night," she said.

Willett said the connections between his town and the U.S. are strong. Before the pandemic, Coutts residents would often make quick trips to Sweetgrass, and "it's been that way since 1890."

"Sometimes, I say we live in northern Montana rather than other southern Alberta," Willett said.

"There's a lot of friendships and family ties across the border."

The wait is over

Some residents in American border towns are excited to see more travellers coming their way. Danny Campanian, co-owner of the Glocca Morra Inn in Sweetgrass, said Canadian travellers would boost business in several Montana towns close to the border.

"Our business is good, but it would be a lot better off once the border opens," he said.

But it's not just about the business.

"We're glad. We've been waiting for it for so long," Campanian said. "Just got a lot of friends and relatives across the border that we're waiting to see."

Willett also has family in Washington, including a 10-year-old grandson, whom he hasn't seen in two years.

"You take family, and being able to see them when you want to, for granted," he said.

Clark, however, remains cautious about the border reopening. She believes there's "a good possibility" the U.S. or Canada could reverse the changes to travel restrictions in the future.

"They're governments, right? You never know what they're going to do."

The existing U.S. border restrictions were set to expire Oct. 21, but they're now being extended until the new rules come into effect next month.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.

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