This pandemic could go on for years. That is the message being communicated by our government and our public health officials. And it is also being played out in the media with scenarios like this one from Nature:
June 2021. The world has been in pandemic mode for a year and a half. The virus continues to spread at a slow burn; intermittent lockdowns are the new normal. An approved vaccine offers six months of protection, but international deal-making has slowed its distribution. An estimated 250 million people have been infected worldwide, and 1.75 million are dead.
Talk of a second wave is making the headlines in our mainstream media, preparing Canadians for more restrictions and shutdowns:
Hope for a return to normal is being deliberately quashed by government and public health officials. There is no hope for a return to normal in the short term.
It won’t happen this year.
It may not happen next year.
“We’re planning, as a public health community, that we’re going to have to manage this pandemic certainly over the next year, but certainly it may be planning for the longer term on the next two to three years during which the vaccine may play a role. But we don’t know yet,” Tam [Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer] told reporters on Tuesday.
“People might think that if we get a vaccine then everything goes back to normal the way it was before. That’s not the case… All of the measures we’ve put in place now will still have to continue with the new reality for quite some time,” Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo said.
“Certainly I think that we need to temper people’s expectations, thinking that the vaccines can be that silver bullet that will take care of everything, and everything we’ve done up to now won’t be necessary in the future,” said Njoo.
Will there be an endemic or just a constant pandemic, ebbing and flowing in waves, resulting in the continued suspension of civil liberties and continued restrictions on social gatherings.
It is within this context that we have made the decision to remain in Canada for the winter. We had little choice. The Canada/US border is closed to all non-essential land travel and it will likely remain closed for quite some time.
In our park, there is talk about how to bypass the restriction on non-essential land travel. A number of followers of this blog have written to me suggesting a similar approach.
The idea is to recruit a friend or to hire a driver to take our coach across the border. Given that there are no restrictions on air travel, we would simply book a one-way flight into the United States, collect our coach, and make our way south.
There are so many things wrong about this tactic and I will cover a few of them here.
The first one is our responsibility as Canadian citizens. Bypassing the land border closure is civil disobedience, a deliberate attempt to circumvent the laws of the land. The land border is closed to non-essential travel because of a public health emergency. Here are the exact words:
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States and Canada are temporarily restricting all non-essential travel across its borders… “Non-essential” travel includes travel that is considered tourism or recreational in nature.
I do not have to agree with the closure but acting on a loophole to cross the border in defiance of the law is an act of civil disobedience.
The second one is risk and reward. Many Canadians remain unaware of the Entry/Exit agreement between the United States and Canada to exchange data on travellers.
Entry and exit information is used by the CBSA [Canada Border Services Agency] to establish reliable and accurate travel history information on all travellers. This enables the Agency to better administer and enforce Canada’s immigration and customs laws where a traveller’s presence or absence from Canada is relevant and necessary to:
- Identify individuals who do not leave Canada at the end of their period of authorized stay
- Focus immigration enforcement activities on persons believed to still be in Canada; and
- Respond to the departure, or intended departure, of high risk persons or goods who may pose a risk to the national security or public safety of Canada
The CBSA discloses entry and exit information we collect in accordance with legislative authorities to:
- Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for the administration and enforcement of immigration and citizenship programs
- the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) for law enforcement purposes
- Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) for the administration of the Employment Insurance and Old Age Security programs
- the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for the administration of Canada’s child and family benefit programs
- Canadian entry data collected at land ports of entry is shared with the US to create an exit record.
The US uses its exit records:
- to manage its border
- to verify the travel date, or
- for any other lawful purpose consistent with its domestic law
The Canadian government will know that our coach was driven across the border, that we took a flight across the border and, upon our return in our coach, that we made a clear and obvious action to circumvent the ban on non-essential travel across the land border.
Some may want to take a chance with Canada customs but really, in the context of this pandemic, with the threat of fines for civil disobedience on something as basic as not wearing a mask, I would not want to have the discussion at the border about why I thought that the ban on non-essential travel across a land border did not apply to me.
Depending on the customs officer, it might result in a ban on future travel into the United States particularly if our traveller’s file was flagged with intent to avoid border control protocols.
As badly as we would like to travel south this winter in our coach, we will do it legally.