'Now is not the time to visit': Freeland implores Alaska-bound Americans to skip Banff
CALGARY -- Following reports that some Americans have detoured to Banff National Park when permitted into Canada to drive to Alaska, Canadian border agents have been instructed to take additional measures to ensure travel is essential.
There have been unconfirmed reports of a family from Texas flaunting to a restaurant server the fact they were in the Banff townsite on vacation in early June. The group is said to have entered Canada under the guise of driving through to Alaska.
On Tuesday, the federal government announced an extension of the closure of the Canadian-U.S. border to non-essential travel to July 21. Following the announcement, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland confirmed she is aware of reports of American visitors in Banff.
"In terms of the situation which has been reported on in Banff, we are very clear that Canada's rules are: you can enter for essential reasons, but not for non-essential ones," said Freeland.
"The RCMP in Banff is following up on this particular report, and is encouraging Canadians to let them know if they see other people who seem to fall into this category."
According to Freeland, Canada's Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair has instructed the Canada Border Services Agency to take further care to ensure travelers entering Canada are "truly coming for essential reasons" and are adhering to the rules designed to help flatten the curve.
"These measures are in place for a reason. They are to protect us, and they are to protect our neighbours."
On June 11, the owners of a private campground in Golden, B.C. discovered that a group registered in one of their sites for the night were residents of Alaska who had entered Canada after returning from Arizona. The campground owners contacted bylaw officers and were informed the American visitors would need to remain in quarantine for 14 days and it was up to the owners to bring groceries to the guests.
Freeland is urging Americans to exercise caution and delay their trips to Canada until it has been deemed safe to do so.
"I love the Rockies too. I grew up in Alberta. Personally, I can think of no better place to spend time," she said. "But now is not the time to visit, hopefully we will be back to normal at some point soon."
Officials with the Town of Banff say the issue of unauthorized tourists in the town is not widespread and caution against jumping to conclusions when encountering out-of-country plates as the visitors may be passing through to their destination after completing the isolation requirements.