Ottawa mulls exempting more workers from Canada-U.S. border shutdown: Garneau

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OTTAWA — Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau says Ottawa is looking at expanding the categories of essential workers allowed to travel across the Canada-U.S. border.

He told a parliamentary committee Thursday that could mean allowing technicians in the integrated auto industry to be considered essential workers for cross-border purposes.

"We are specifically talking about different groups that would be potentially considered to be essential workers, that have the need to cross the border for specific reasons," Garneau said.

The Canada-U.S. border has been closed to people travelling for vacations and other non-essential visits since March 2020 to help limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Garneau told MPs on the special committee on the economic relationship between Canada and the U.S. that the flow of goods across the shared border has slowed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions.

"The situation is gradually changing and we are very, very sensitive to the need to recover our economies," he said.

Millions of dollars in goods and services still cross the border every day, and roughly three-quarters of Canada's exports go to the United States.

Garneau said the most important factor in evaluating border policy is the health and safety of Canadians, but the government should be sensitive to the need to revive the economy.

"We have to always bear in mind that the No. 1 consideration is the health and safety of Canadians."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 8, 2021.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press