Canada opposes a plan by the US to send troops to its northern frontier to catch border jumpers who might be carrying COVID-19, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday.
Trudeau and Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland were responding to a Global News report that said White House officials were discussing such a military deployment to the recently closed border, the world’s longest at 8,900km.
Amid the pandemic it was temporarily shut as of Saturday to all non-essential travelers on both sides, but not cross-border trade.
“Canada and the United States have the longest unmilitarized border in the world. And it is very much in both of our interests for it to remain that way,” Trudeau told a daily briefing.
His administration has highlighted to the US that the flow of people and trade “has benefited our two countries and our economies tremendously,” Trudeau said. “And we feel that it needs to remain that way.”
“In Canada’s view this is an entirely unnecessary step which we would view as damaging to our [bilateral] relationship,” Freeland said.
She told a news conference that Washington had yet to make a decision, but added: “We do not believe at all that there would be a public health justification for [the US] to take this action.”
“We’ve said we don’t think this is the right way to treat a trusted friend and a military ally,” she said.
Freeland said Ottawa “forcefully” pushed back against the border proposal, reminding in discussions with US officials that the two nations are “very close military allies,” including partners in NORAD and NATO.
An estimated 400,000 people and US$2 billion of goods normally cross the border each day.
Global News reported that fewer than 1,000 US troops would be stationed within 30km of the Canadian frontier, between official border checkpoints, and use sensor technologies to detect irregular crossings.
Under the proposal, the US military would advise US border agents, who would be sent to intercept them.
According to the latest US government data, officials apprehended 4,400 migrants at the Canada-US border in the 12 months to Sept. 30 last year, compared with 15,700 who crossed irregularly into Canada from the US during the period.
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