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Push to expand essential travel from US-Canada ahead of June 21 travel ban expiration

Posted at 5:36 PM, May 22, 2020

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Memorial Day is the unofficial start to a very busy travel season between the Western New York and Southern Ontario. Many travel to visit family cottages, shop, or engage in tourist activities.

But, with the border closed at least until June 21 — some are pushing for an expansion to both nation's definition of “essential travel”.

“Expanding the scope of essential travel to include people who may want to go over and enjoy or check on their properties,” said Representative Brian Higgins who sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security and the Minister of Public Safety in Ontario about the matter.

He thinks with the correct practices in place we can safely reopen the border to some.

Professor Charles Conteh of Brock University said we can’t use a “one-size-fits-all” approach to opening the border.

“Each of the cross-border regions or zones have specific peculiarities, he said. “The more you focus on the peculiarities of a region, the more you find you can have a more tailored — a more phased-in — approach to expediting, hopefully, cross border flows once again.”

Conteh is part of a large collection of organizations between the US and Canada that sent a letter to state, federal, and provincial leadership asking for conditional approvals for certain groups to travel again.

“In certain sectors, specifically certain people might be granted the first wave of access.”

Craig Turner, President of World Trade Center Buffalo Niagara, said decisions about borders should be discussed with those who are impacted most by its closure.

“For a long time we’ve talked about decisions for the US-Candadian border being made in Washington and Ottawa and a lot of times those decisions don’t get very localized,” he said.

“Instead of waiting for Ottawa and Washington to put together policies, let’s get our people together — feet on the ground — that use the border every day and put some recommendations together that hopefully they’d include as they’re doing their decision making.”