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Congressman Brian Higgins was among a bipartisan group of approximately a dozen members of the House of Representatives meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Trudeau is visiting the U.S. Capitol for North American Leaders meetings with President Joe Biden and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
Last week, Higgins sent a letter to Biden suggesting priorities for U.S.-Canada discussion and collaboration should include trade, dropping the border testing requirement, passenger rail, and the exemption of Americans from the non-citizen property tax increase.
According to published reports, the Canadian government is planning to drop the PCR COVID-19 testing requirement for fully vaccinated Canadians returning to Canada after a trip abroad for less than 72 hours.
Higgins learned during today’s meeting that changes to the testing requirements will come in three phases. Eliminating testing for vaccinated Canadians is phase one, with changes to testing applied to vaccinated Americans and others to come in subsequent phases. Official details are expected to come on Friday.
In response, Higgins said, “The fractured approach to border management by both the U.S. and Canadian governments is contributing to public confusion, anger and, frankly, it makes no sense. Fully vaccinated individuals, regardless of if they live in Canada or the United States, are equally protected from getting or giving COVID. Testing is not only unnecessary, it is prohibiting a cross-border exchange critical to fostering economic recovery in both nations. I was encouraged by today’s meeting that testing requirements on vaccinated Americans will soon be addressed. I hope that discussions this week can produce a more cohesive policy strategy between the U.S. and Canada on this and other matters.”
Higgins, whose district includes the cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls, serves as co-chair of the Canada-U.S. interparliamentary group and the congressional northern border caucus. The congressman recently met with and wrote a letter to Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., expressing his opposition to the testing requirement for fully vaccinated travelers. He wrote, “The strong efficacy of the available COVID-19 vaccines make these tests redundant and present an unnecessary barrier to restoring the pre-pandemic flow of travel and trade between the United States and Canada.”
For months, Higgins pushed the U.S. government to reopen the northern border. Recently, he successfully advocated for the U.S. to allow mixed doses and World Health Organization-approved vaccines, such as AstraZeneca, to meet the standard of fully vaccinated by the U.S. government, opening the door for millions of Canadians to cross the border.
After first closing to nonessential travel in March of 2020 due to the pandemic, Canada reopened its border to Americans on Aug. 9, 2021. The U.S. allowed Canadians to cross again beginning Nov. 8.