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Border rules meant to 'keep people safe', PM says amid calls for exemptions for immediate family members

Last Updated May 14, 2020 at 10:33 am PST

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada/USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the border rules are in place to keep Canadians safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Trudeau's comments come as we hear of more families unable to reunite due to the ban on non-essential border crossings

The Canada-U.S. border has been closed to non-essential travel since March 21

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The border rules are in place for a reason — to keep us safe. That’s the message from the prime minister as we hear of cases of families unable to reunite due to the ban on non-essential border crossings.

Asked about the case of an American man trying to cross the border for the birth of his son — only to be denied by border guards — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday many of us have had to make tough decisions during COVID-19.

“We need to make sure that the decisions are taken that are going to protect people,” he said during his daily update. “I understand that different decisions could be made based on a case-by-case basis, but what we are doing now is what we need to do to keep Canadians safe for the coming months and years.”

He even went so far as to reference people having to say goodbye to loved ones over FaceTime.

“Obviously, we’re trying to make sure that people can do the things that are most essential,” he said during his daily update. “But even as we were grieving over the past weeks in Nova Scotia and elsewhere, we needed to make sure we’re respecting the rules in place to keep people safe.”

Meanwhile, a couple of thousand people have signed an online petition asking the federal government to allow immediate family members of Canadians to enter the country.

“The government of Canada is currently separating families at the border,” the petition reads.

It also asks that Ottawa “clarify that crossing the border to reunite with an immediate family member is an essential reason for travel that is exempt from the border measures,” as well as continue to process work, study, and other permits for immediate family members south of the border.

The Canada-U.S. border has been closed to all non-essential travel since March 21. Truck drivers, Canadians and Americans who cross the border for essential work or other “urgent” reasons, as well as some others are exempt from the closure.

Trudeau has said the federal government plans to be “very, very careful” in dealing with an increase in cross-border traffic as businesses reopen and restrictions on personal mobility are slowly eased in both countries. However, he did not say whether he expects the border to reopen when the mutual ban expires next week.

There have been rumblings about the Canadian and U.S. governments working on possibly extending the agreement to June 21.

-With files from The Canadian Press