Thousands of travellers still arriving in Canada despite border restrictions

Despite Canada-US border being closed to non-essential travel and airlines cancelling international flights into the country, thousands of passengers are still arriving at Canadian airports.

According to new numbers from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), Canada saw a 98 per cent drop this year in travellers arriving from the U.S. during the week of May 18-24.

In 2019, 379,211 travellers from the U.S. entered Canada during that week. This year, that number dropped to 4,077 travellers.

Other international travel saw 12,165 international travellers arrive in Canada by air — a 97 per cent decrease from last year’s total of 388,201. In addition to air travel, Canada also saw 49,785 land travellers enter the country during that week.

John Gradek, a former executive at Air Canada, told in a phone interview on Tuesday that those numbers may seem small in comparison, but they are significant amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are no where near having COVID-19 under control, and there’s questions about where these people coming from and what is the state of COVID-19 in those countries,” Gradek said. “They’re not necessarily coming from hot zones, but they’re definitely coming from some very warm zones.”

Gradek, who now teaches aviation leadership and airline management at Montreal’s McGill University, said “a lot of people” are exempt from Canada’s border restrictions, including relatives of Canadian citizens, citizens being repatriated, foreign workers and foreign students.