Canada

Science will lead the way on border reopening, U.S. secretary of state says

The United States will not put an arbitrary timeline on when the Canada-U.S. border should reopen because the Biden administration is going to let science do the talking, says U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

"We're going to follow the science, we're going to follow the facts and make sure that together, as we all bounce back from COVID, we can get this going as quickly and as effectively and as deeply as possible," Blinken told CBC's chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton in an exclusive interview. 

"I don't want to put a time stamp on it. We have to follow the progress that we're all making in combating the disease and getting people vaccinated, and again, following the science," he said.

The full interview with Blinken will air on Rosemary Barton Live this Sunday.  

The Canada-U.S. border closed to all non-essential traffic on March 21, 2020, a closure that was just extended to March 21 this year. 

Blinken's approach — letting science, rather than politics or economics, determine when normal border traffic can resume — comes as he kicks off his first virtual visits as the top U.S. diplomat. 

Today Blinken starts his day paying a virtual visit to Mexico, meeting with Secretary of Foreign Affairs Marcelo Ebrard and Secretary of Economy Tatiana Clouthier before turning his screen to Canada to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau and other cabinet ministers. 

Staying vigilant on COVID

According to a statement from the Department of State, Blinken will follow up on some of the issues raised during U.S. President Joe Biden's virtual visit to Canada earlier in the week before moving onto a host of other issues, including: restarting the North American economy, taking action on climate change, defending human rights and shoring up shared defence and security initiatives. 

Top of mind, undoubtedly, will be comparing notes on how both nations are fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and how Canada and the U.S. can work together to win that fight in the coming months. 

"It is changing mostly for the good every single day," Blinken told Barton. "I think we've made very rapid progress in the last few weeks; at the same time, we have variants that are popping up, we need to guard against those."

Blinken said both nations need to remain disciplined when it comes to following the advice of public health professionals "because the closer we get to actually getting over the hump and dealing effectively with COVID-19, it's easy to let down your guard," he said. 

"People are tired, they're frustrated and I understand that profoundly. But if we can just keep our guard up and keep our vigilance a little while longer, we are going to get to the other side."

After Blinken meets with Garneau and Trudeau he will spend two hours meeting with students to discuss opportunities and policy options that can benefit both Canada and the U.S.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet online with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau on Friday, discussing a number of issues important to both countries. (Jason Burles/CBC)

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