Some Americans still visiting Canadian landmarks despite border shutdown
For many a trip to the mountains can be a nice getaway but some are having theirs ruined by some unwelcome guests.
While visiting the Park on Friday, Connie Ivison and her husband spotted a van with a California license plate.
The couple were irate as the border has been closed to American visitors for non-essential travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. California has recorded more than 5,000 deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus.
"I’m seeing California license plates in my province," said Ivison. "I feel like I’m being lied to by my government."
Americans have been permitted access to Canada if they are travelling through to Alaska for essential reasons but Waterton Lakes National Park is not along the direct route from a border crossing to the northernmost state. Other Canadian destinations — including Banff National Park and Golden, B.C. — have reported American tourists despite the shutdown.
The federal government is imploring Americans to postpone non-essential trips to Canada.
"I would say to our American friends and neighbours. I love the Rockies too. I grew up in Alberta. Personally, I can think of no better place to spend time. But now is not the time to visit, hopefully we will be back to normal some point soon," said Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland.
The Prime Minister says he is investigating the complaints.
"As we continue our conversations with the Americans, we look at adjusting or shifting our posture in certain ways, we need to make sure we’re able to apply the rules consistently and that we’re doing everything necessary to keep Canadians safe in this important time."
But for those working in the townsite, it’s not overly alarming.
"Hopefully they are heading to the destination they say they are heading to or they have family here," said Shameer Suleman, owner of the Bayshore Inn and Spa and vice-president of the Waterton Lakes Chamber of Commerce. "We're going to trust that our Canadian border service is doing the right thing and they're heading to destination that they say they are heading to."
Ivison says she shied away from visiting family in Saskatchewan since it was non-essential, but now she is eyeing a bigger trip.
"My husband and I joked about….maybe if we drove to the border said we’re going to drive through to Mexico they would let us through."
Alberta’s chief medical officer is aware of the Alaska loophole.
"I have been in contact with the Canadian Public Health Agency of Canada and— through them, the Canada Border Service Agency — about a concern with respect to making sure that when people do cross on their way to Alaska the they’re very clear about their requirements," said Dr. Deena Hinshaw."But at least (according to)the information that I have, I don’t have information to indicate this is a significant number of people crossing the border."
Canada and the US have extended the border closure for non-essential travel to July 21.