The Canadian government says it’s “strongly opposed” to the idea of sending American troops to the border to intercept illegal migrants as part of that country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is an entirely unnecessary step, which we would view as damaging to our relationship,” said Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland today following the first public reports.
“Canada is strongly opposed to this U.S. proposal and we’ve made that opposition very, very clear to our American counterparts.
“At the end of the day, every country takes it own decisions but ours is an important and valued partnership and we are making clear Canada’s position.”
As first reported by Global News, White House officials are actively discussing putting soldiers near the Canadian border because of border security concerns related to COVID-19 — raising diplomatic tensions on both sides of the border.
WATCH: Freeland says Canada ‘strongly opposed’ to U.S. troops at border
A source with knowledge of those discussions told CBC News the White House is looking at placing 1,000 troops about 25 kilometres from the 8,891 kilometre-long border and using remote sensors to look out for irregular border-crossers.
The source stressed that the U.S. hasn’t made a final decision.
Another source — who spoke on the condition they not be named because they were not authorized to discuss the measures — said that if the plan moves ahead, the deployed U.S. Department of Defence personnel wouldn’t have any law enforcement powers. They’d be tasked with watching for people crossing between ports of entry who could be carrying the virus that causes COVID-19 and reporting such people to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials, they said.
Canada found out a few days ago: Freeland
Freeland said Canada became aware of the possibility of troop movements near the border “a couple of days ago.”
“We understand the concerns about the coronavirus. We share those concerns, very much,” she said.
“What we have said is, ‘We really do not believe at all that there would be a public health justification for you to take this action. Of course, it’s up to you to decide for yourselves.’ And we’ve said we really don’t think this is the right way to treat a trusted friend and military ally.”
WATCH: Trudeau on Trump considering sending troops to the border
In his daily news conference this morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the unprotected border has benefited both countries for decades.
“Canada and the U.S. have the longest unmilitarized border in the world. It is very much in both of our of interests for it to remain that way,” he said.
“It’s benefited our two countries, our two economies, tremendously. We feel that it needs to remain that way.”
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection figures, their officers apprehended more than 4,400 migrants at the Canada-U.S. border last year. About half of those border crossers were of Mexican nationality, while 322 were Canadian citizens.
The two countries have a mutual ban in place on non-essential travel across the border, which includes trips for recreational purposes.
When that ban was announced, both sides stressed the importance of continuing to allow trade, commerce and cross-border essential workers to move back and forth over the border.