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Sen. Charles Schumer presses Canadian ambassador on border closure

Sen. Charles Schumer presses Canadian ambassador on border closure

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Schumer at Rainbow Bridge (copy) (copy)

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer proposed a four-point plan for reopening the U.S.-Canada border, speaking at the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls on May 5, 2021.

WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Saturday that he called Canada's ambassador to the United States a day earlier with a stern message: that Canada is making a huge mistake in insisting that its border with the U.S. remain closed to nonessential travel through July 21.

Schumer said he was "really angry" when he saw that Canada on Friday announced another monthlong extension of the border closure, which began at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020. That being the case, Schumer, a New York Democrat, called Kirsten Hillman, the Canadian ambassador, to register his complaints.

"I told her that we have to work together, that the U.S. and Canada have to work to get the border open immediately," Schumer, a New York Democrat, said in an interview. "I told her: Come up with a plan that will allow people who are vaccinated – Canadian or Americans – across the border."

At a press briefing Friday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: "We have to hit our targets of 75% vaccinated with the first dose and at least 20% vaccinated with the second dose before we can start loosening things up because even a fully vaccinated individual can pass on Covid-19 to someone who is not vaccinated."

As of Thursday, nearly 66% of Canadians had received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, while 15.91% of Canadians were fully vaccinated.

While the Canadian government continues to resist a border reopening,  Schumer said he believes "our government is ready" to reopen the border.

He said he also told Hillman that the continued closure is unwarranted in light of the fact that the European Union has now opened its borders to vaccinated Americans.

"So people in Western New York can't travel a few miles north over to Canada to visit their homes or businesses or stores or families, but they can fly thousands of miles to Europe," Schumer said. "It really doesn't make any sense."

What's more, Schumer added, "I told her how illogical it was, a year from the original closure, that families remain separated, that boats can't even anchor in their waters even if they're not going to make any landfall in Canada, that people can't visit their homes – and Canada's mulling a tax on those empty homes."

Asked how the ambassador reacted to his comment, Schumer said: "She did not really have good answers."

"She was sympathetic to the problem, but basically she said she would certainly convey my message to Mr. Trudeau," Schumer added.

Elizabeth Switzer, who has been unable to see her fiance in person for almost a year due to the U.S.-Canada border closure, talks about the difficulties of being in a forced long-distance relationship and rescheduling her wedding to Paul, a Canadian citizen in a PhD program at McMasters University in Hamilton, Ont. which would be less than an hour drive away under normal circumstances.

The Buffalo News: Good Morning, Buffalo

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