The year-old U.S.-Canada border restrictions have as expected been extended yet another 30 days without change to April 21.
Each month at this point, the focus of attention turns to the huge bi-national economic impact and the sad separation of families. Both remain severe. But the macro impact is now far, far greater than it appears those in command may truly appreciate.
The relationship between the U.S. and Canada is arguably unique in the world between two neighbors: historically, economically, and socially. And unlike other bi-national relationships which are largely driven by government-to-government actions, the special relationship between Canada and the U.S. has long been driven by people-to-people connections and interactions. And thus, this unprecedented separation is now unarguably doing deep and long-lasting damage on multiple levels. Simply put, it is fundamentally eroding the special relationship.
When first imposed a year ago, we and others warned of the dangers of turning the extremely abnormal into the seemingly normal. We are approaching that point and may even have passed it.
In his poem, "The Mending Wall", Robert Frost tells the story of the man building a wall and, when asked why, responding that good fences make good neighbors. That insightful bit of literature goes on to admonish us that "something there is that doesn't love a wall, that wants it down." Make no mistake. A year ago our shared border was suddenly changed from a place of connection to a symbol of separation.
It is past time for both countries to demonstrate a shared determination to plan for the earliest possible modification of the unprecedented wall they have placed at the heart of our unique relationship. To provide a sense of "hope" after more than a year of silence. To be driven by the realization that "we must" versus "we'll get around to it someday". If not yet saying when the proverbial bulldozer will remove the wall in full, at least assuring us of determination to do so as soon as feasible and, in the interim, removing some segments of the wall here and there for some interim progress such as travel by the vaccinated as a start.
The long-term stakes are now far greater than economics.
Our thanks to our Washington representatives and others on both sides of the border to whom we have been imparting a sense of urgency and who have been consistently responsive and engaged. Apologies now, but please expect continued pressure and outreach appropriate to the growing seriousness of the lasting damage underway.
Onward and upward!
President and CEO
North Country Chamber of Commerce