Canadian snowbirds wonder why the land border is still closed as they prepare to travel to the United States and ship their RVs
As the closure of the US land border to non-essential travel drags on, patience runs out for some fully vaccinated Canadian snowbirds who live in their RVs year-round.
That’s because if the US side of the border stays closed next month, snowbirds will be spending a lot of money getting to the US and transporting their RVs overland.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Laura Fordham, who lives in a full-time RV with her husband, Fred. “It just doesn’t make sense why they would let people fly, but people not drive.”
The couple’s current home, an RV park in Puslinch, Ont. Near Guelph, closes at the end of the month.
The United States has extended the closure of its land border until at least October 21. If that date is extended until November, Fordham said the couple would pay a commercial driver around $ 700 to transport their campervan across the Michigan land border. Although Canadian travelers currently cannot cross by land, there are no restrictions on importing vehicles into the United States.
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Fordham said she and her husband will also have to pay hundreds of dollars each to fly from Toronto to Flint, Michigan, so they can pick up their campervan and drive it to Texas.
“It hurts the wallet,” she said of the potential additional costs. “We only get a government pension; we don’t have any extra money.”
Like other snowbirds CBC News has spoken to, Fordham questions the logic behind current U.S. travel rules that Canadian travelers can fly to the United States, but not drive. She argues that traveling in an RV is a safer way to cross the border than it is to fly during a pandemic.
“If we have our motorhome, we’re just the two of us,” she said. “You are not in the crowd.”
Some travel restrictions relaxed
At the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the United States and Canada agreed to close their common land border to non-essential travel. For reasons which has never been explained, the United States still allowed Canadian leisure travelers to enter the country.
In August, Canada has reopened its land and air borders to fully vaccinated US travelers.
In September, the United States announcement this, too, will ease some travel restrictions.
Since the start of the pandemic, the United States has banned air passengers from dozens of countries, including most of Europe. Last week, the U.S. government announced it would lift the ban in early November and require foreigners arriving by air to be fully vaccinated.
But on the land border, the government only said it remains closed due to the pandemic and that as of yet, there is no set reopening date.
“We don’t have any updates or predictions at this time”, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters last week.
According to the Canadian Snowbird Association, in a typical year over a million snowbirds make the trip south, and most travel in their vehicles.
If the land border closure continues, a number of snowbirds will likely stay at home. But that option poses challenges for those who should be spending the Canadian winter in their RVs or getting a temporary home.
“They should open the land border to fully vaccinated Canadians,” said Bernard Loiselle.
He and his wife, Sylvie Charbonneau, currently live in an RV park in Marieville, Quebec, just outside of Montreal, which closes towards the end of the month.
The couple have already signed up with a Quebec company that will transport them on a chartered plane to Plattsburgh, NY, on November 1. The company will also transport their recreational vehicle across the land border, so Loiselle and Charbonneau can pick it up in Plattsburgh. and drive to Florida.
If the US land border reopens on October 22, the couple will cancel their plans. Otherwise, the total price just to cross the border will be over $ 2,000.
“We have to do what we have to do to spend the winter in the sun,” Loiselle said.
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What is the rationale?
Priscilla Crowther of Hammonds Plains, Nova Scotia, near Halifax, is set to book a similar transportation service if the U.S. border closure continues until November. Crowther and her husband Gary not only live in their RV all year round, but also pay around C $ 800 per month to secure a place for their home in a Florida RV park.
Crowther said she would like to hear an explanation from the US government as to why the couple are dangerous if they are driving to the United States instead of flying.
“It’s a question we ask ourselves, shaking our heads,” she said. “I would like to know what is the reason behind this.”
CBC News has repeatedly asked the US government why Canadians can fly but not drive in the United States during the pandemic. The government never responded.
Last week, in a hearing before a government committee, US Senator Gary Peters of Michigan asked why the land border was closed to fully immunized Canadians.
“The arc of the delta variant is not yet where we need it,” replied the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas.
He said travel restrictions in the United States were being relaxed in stages and did not provide a timeline for the land border to reopen.
“We are looking at the situation,” Mayorkas said.
This leaves some snowbirds waiting in the wings to find out if their annual trek in the south will be a routine trip or involve a more expensive and complicated trip.
“There’s really nothing we can do about it,” Loiselle said.
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