Is Canada required to allow transit to and from Alaska?

14

Currently, the US/Canada border is closed to "non-essential" travel. US citizens travelling to and from Alaska are allowed, with some restrictions, to make this journey by car.

Is the right of US citizens' access to Alaska guaranteed by some sort of treaty or international law, or is it solely based on the Canadian government's desire to be a good neighbour?

miken32

Posted 2020-07-31T01:06:48.240

Reputation: 430

8A search didn't turn up any treaties. Fun fact I did find out: the US government has (until last year, when they stopped) been funding maintenance of the Alaska Highway's Canadian portion to the tune of > $400 million over the past 40 years. – miken32 – 2020-07-31T01:21:14.323

Close as I can find: https://www.treaty-accord.gc.ca/text-texte.aspx?id=103554 Article II, Paragraph 3, Section 5 suggests there exists cooperation between border agencies.

– bishop – 2020-07-31T02:20:21.290

Travel to/from Port Orchard is similarly allowed. – Shawn Balestracci – 2020-07-31T05:18:47.420

1Both the USA mainland and Alaska have ports, right? Technically they don't need Canada. – Mast – 2020-07-31T13:27:12.510

I think it's just them being good neighbors. Canadian law will apply. I recall it making the news at some point (probably in the 80s when I lived in the US), how Canadian border guard would take away the firearms some Americans tried to bring along in their vehicles. The offered solution was to get the guns shipped (mail or otherwise) to a border town in Alaska (or the contiguous 48, depending on which way you wanted to cross a part of Canada) for pick up. – Jyrki Lahtonen – 2020-07-31T14:41:12.650

You don't need to go via Canada anyway; you can just take the ferry.

– Michael Hampton – 2020-08-01T01:17:25.057

@MichaelHampton I'm already in Canada, and USA is not a place I would want to go right now. Maybe next year! :) – miken32 – 2020-08-01T19:21:56.370

Answers

19

There is no accord allowing free movement of people between the USA and Canada. Neither country has visa requirements for short term entry, but there is no agreement (like the Schengen accord in Europe) to allow people to cross the border [source]

As such, both the USA and Canada are free to close the border for any or no reason, and there is no requirement in treaty to allow foreign nationals to enter a country to travel to an exclave.

There is an agreement for the USA to pay Canada to maintain and upgrade the Alaska Highway, and there is an agreement to share immigration information, but nothing in these agreements guarantees Alaskans the right to enter Canada for the purpose of travelling to and from the contiguous 48.

So this is essentially a case of "good neighbourliness". No doubt if this became a significant cause of new infections of COVID19, the situation would change.

James K

Posted 2020-07-31T01:06:48.240

Reputation: 70 324

2Free movement is very different from any sort of legal requirement to allow access to an enclave, and that report... But this confirms what I thought; given the numbers I can't imagine this would cause any significant infection numbers, but the Canadian government does have the option to limit this travel if it desired. – miken32 – 2020-07-31T14:21:11.543

"...among U.S. citizens, there is broad support for a BLA with Canada... Although only U.S. citizens are polled in this survey, the results would probably generalize to Canadian citizens..." NOPE – miken32 – 2020-07-31T14:25:19.893

@miken32: Note that the survey was conducted in mid-2019. I suspect Canadian public opinion has shifted somewhat since then. – Michael Seifert – 2020-07-31T14:50:08.660

@MichaelSeifert well they didn't do any polling in Canada is the point. Their justification for Canadians "probably" agreeing with them was a 2004 survey on NAFTA. Thanks Cato. – miken32 – 2020-07-31T15:24:14.467

It's entirely up to individual CBP agents. You are supposed to have a passport or enhanced id to travel back and forth, but I've seen people cut over Lake Erie between NY and Michigan with just birth certificates and photo ID. I also heard about someone who still regularly travels between Ontario and NY to see their boyfriend, granted NY is the only state to keep the infection rate low right now. – rtaft – 2020-07-31T17:44:01.577

4

Feel compelled to share, this has changed as of yesterday https://www.canada.ca/en/border-services-agency/news/2020/07/covid-19-stricter-rules-for-foreign-nationals-transiting-through-canada-to-alaska.html; still allowed, but with new restrictions/requirements.

– Chris Baxter – 2020-07-31T19:24:13.457

2I can say from following the news here in Vancouver that people are somewhat tolerant of Americans transiting to Alaska. There is more backlash when US plates are seen in tourist areas, giving the impression of Americans vacationing here. Situation is different on the inner coastal waterways to Alaska as some of the native Canadian communities on those islands have, for good reason, strict policies against visitors docking, US or Canadian. Overall, at this point, there is lots of support for keeping the border closed to non-essential travel, but limited demands for repealing AK transit. – Italian Philosophers 4 Monica – 2020-07-31T21:45:03.523

@ItalianPhilosophers4Monica yes here in southern Alberta we've seen some mountain visitors get ticketed when they were found to be out hiking during their "transit"! (It was some yahoo on Twitter demanding a complete shutdown of the border that prompted my search, and then this question.) – miken32 – 2020-08-01T19:26:09.723