The border crossing between the U.S. and Canada in Houlton. Credit: Alexander MacDougall / Houlton Pioneer Times

MADAWASKA, Maine — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested Tuesday that three-quarters of Canadians must be vaccinated before the government considers easing restrictions on the Canada-U.S. border, according to The Canadian Press.

With Canada experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases in April, Trudeau reportedly pushed back against expectations that the border would open in the near future.

Trudeau and his government have begun internal discussions about the future of restrictions on the world’s longest border, which has been sealed to most non-essential travel since March 2020.

Despite an uptick in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, Canada’s vaccination efforts continue to lag behind U.S. numbers, with a little more than 38 percent of all Candians having received the first dose compared with about 60 percent of American adults.

In the region, these numbers are exacerbated. Nearly 50 percent of Mainers are fully inoculated. While 41 percent of Quebec’s adults have received a first dose, Maine’s other neighbors, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, lag slightly behind the national average.

Meanwhile in the U.S., Democrats and Republicans alike are pushing for the Biden administration to reopen the border. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has called for an immediate easing of border restrictions, suggesting travelers provide negative tests or proof of vaccinations before crossing.

Collins has backed opening the border since last summer, when she wrote multiple letters to then-President Donald Trump and other administration officials urging them to reconsider the border closure. Collins has maintained that the sealed border is doing undue damage to nearby communities.

Collins said that she raised the issue with a joint meeting with U.S. senators and Canadian members of Parliament on Tuesday. 

“The prolonged closure of the U.S.-Canada border has taken a severe toll on the many Maine families with close Canadian relatives as well as on small businesses in border communities,” Collins said. “Individuals who have been recently tested or vaccinated pose a low risk and should be able to visit family members and shop at small businesses across the border.”

Hannah Catlin

Hannah Catlin is a reporter at the St. John Valley Times/Fiddlehead Focus in Madawaska, Maine.