House Call with Carol Hughes

Why are American
licenced vehicles in the North?

Last week I confided how I receive a lot of correspondence on the subject of masks. While that particular subject has been ramping up as local regulations come into place, another consistent topic has been cars with American licence plates that are popping up in Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing. While there are good reasons to explain the presence of these vehicles, there are valid questions to be asked as well.

As most of us understand, the border is closed to non-essential travel and that has thrown much of what we take for granted up in the air. Americans who summer in Canada have not been able to travel to their properties and snowbirds are wondering if the closure will persist and take that option from them later in the year. The agreement is not unilateral, but instead is a part of a process that has been agreed upon by both countries. As time passes, exemptions have been identified and the decision is re-visited every 30 days.

For many, the sight of an American plate brings out questions about the manner in which border agents are doing their job. While none of us could speak to every instance, there are valid reasons for these vehicles to be in Canada. The first of these would be that these vehicles belong to Canadians who live in the United States. They may have a vehicle they purchased and registered in the US, but they are Canadians and are allowed to return to Canada and are required to quarantine for 14 days once arriving.

The second reason is for family unification. There was a news story last week about a novel cross-border wedding that took place in western Canada, where the groom lived, on the border separated by a fence with border officials as witnesses. After the wedding, the bride moved to Canada and is isolating in quarantine for the required period. Even in the riding there are spouses who live apart for certain periods of time because of their work; one such example is a Canadian whose wife is American and teaches in the US so now that school is out, she has finally been able to reunite with her husband for the summer. Similar arrangements are taking place across the country as couples unite. 

Exemptions also exist for permanent residents, persons registered under the Canadian Indian Act and protected persons such as minors who may be part of a cross-border shared custody arrangement. As mentioned, these individuals are all subject to quarantine rules and must have a quarantine plan in place to show border officials. Such a plan would indicate where a person will be staying, how they will travel to that destination, purchase their groceries and access any essential services and medical care they may require. There are a few other exemptions that relate to special circumstances such as diplomats and foreign students. In every instance, the quarantine restrictions remain the same.

It is easy to see how people can jump to conclusions based on limited evidence or information in news stories and many of the messages I have received relate to incidents they have heard about. For the purpose of being open, I should also relate that I receive a lot of correspondence from Americans who own property in Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing and would like to be allowed entry into Canada to ensure those properties don’t fall into disrepair. While I can appreciate their circumstance, it is imperative that the border remain as tight as possible. The American response to the pandemic has not been as robust as Canada’s as the outcomes have shown. That alone makes the border closure essential.