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What Canada-U.S. border changes could mean for Alaska travel

The federal government is expected to make an announcement on Monday
It’s been a long time since most Yukoners have seen downtown Skagway. (Andrew Seal/Yukon News file)

The border between the United States and Canada is still uncertain, but planned changes could allow Yukoners to be fishing in Haines by the fall.

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc indicated on June 15 that an announcement could come on Monday on easing pandemic travel restrictions. The border with the United States was closed to most non-essential travel in March 2020.

The current extension is set to expire on June 21.

“Next week we’ll have more to say about measures that will be in place at both the land borders and the air arrivals at the four designated airports,” LeBlanc told a pandemic briefing Tuesday.

“The good news is we hope and believe these measures can evolve in a phased appropriate way over the next number of weeks. We’ll have more to say about those specific measures and the implementation details in the coming days.”

Premier Sandy Silver said on June 11 that his government has continually provided information to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the northern border situation.

“We made it clear to the federal government that there’s lots of interest here,” he said. “A lot of people in Skagway would love to be here. We have people in Yukon that have boats in Skagway. It’s kind of like a family. They are isolated.

“There are people that are eager to get to Skagway and they want to go to Haines as well. I say all that with the caveat that my priority is always the safety and health of folks.”

Right now 72 per cent of eligible adults in the Yukon have received their second shot.

In Alaska, 48 per cent of residents ages 12 and up have received two shots of the vaccine, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

Right now all international arrivals into Canada require a pre-entry COVID-19 test, a 14-day quarantine that includes three nights in a designated hotel and additional tests during the isolation period. Only four airports are allowing international flights.

Last week the government announced that exceptions for Canadian citizens and permanent residents who have received two vaccine doses and who test negative for COVID-19 will likely begin in July.

Unfortunately, that still doesn’t allow Yukoners to casually travel over the border. Right now the United States is closed to Canadians who are not essential travellers. Biden and Trudeau are in talks about a coordinated reopening.

If the U.S. decided to unilaterally open its border Yukoners would be able to travel to Alaska with a short return quarantine. However, until Canada followed with it’s own changes Alaskans – even fully vaccinated individuals – would still not be able to cross the border for non-essential travel.

Monday’s announcement is likely to bring more clarity.

Silver said the Yukon government will follow the federal lead when it comes to enabling international travel, including the potential use of rapid tests.

“We’re very supportive of easing of restrictions when it’s safe to do so,” he said.

– With files from The Canadian Press

Contact Haley Ritchie at