Transcript: Crossing the Border for Essential Work | Apr 30, 2021

Jeyan sits in a living room. He's is in his thirties, with short black hair and a trimmed beard. He's wearing a blue suit, white shirt, and purple tie.

A caption on screen reads "Crossing the border for essential work. Jeyan Jeganathan. @JeyanTVO. @theagenda."

Jeyan says DURING THIS PANDEMIC, CANADIANS WHO WORK IN THE U.S. CONTEND WITH A WEB OF RULES. AND AS SOUTHWESTERN ONTARIO HUB JOURNALIST MARY BAXTER DISCOVERED, IT CAN MAKE CROSSING THE BORDER CONFUSING AND EVEN RISKY. SHE JOINS US NOW IN LONDON, ONTARIO, TO EXPLAIN.

Mary is in her forties, with shoulder-length wavy brown hair. She's wearing a black cardigan over a blue blouse.

Jeyan says LET'S CLEAR UP THE CONFUSION ABOUT CROSSING THE BORDER WHEN WE TALK ABOUT SELF-ISOLATION AND PHYSICALLY CROSSING THE BORDER. WHAT DO PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW?

The caption changes to "Mary Baxter. Southwestern Ontario Hub Journalist."

Mary says THERE'S BEEN A LOT OF DIFFERENT RULES SINCE BORDERS CLOSED TO ESSENTIALLY NON-ESSENTIAL TRAFFIC IN MARCH 2020. THE MOST RECENT ONES HAVE TO DO... WERE INTRODUCED IN FEBRUARY AND THEY HAVE TO DO WITH QUARANTINING AND ALSO WITH TESTING. SO PEOPLE WHO CROSS A LAND BORDER, FOR INSTANCE, HAVE TO TEST... AND I'M TALKING ABOUT BETWEEN CANADA AND THE UNITED STATES HERE... THEY HAVE TO TEST IN ADVANCE OF CROSSING THE BORDER. IT'S ROUGHLY AROUND 72 HOURS. THEN THEY HAVE TO DO ANOTHER TEST WHEN THEY'RE AT THE BORDER. AND THEY ALSO HAVE TO QUARANTINE FOR 14 DAYS, WHICH THEY CAN DO AT HOME. BUT DURING THAT TIME, ON DAY 8, THEY HAVE TO TAKE ANOTHER TEST. THEY HAVE IT EASY. IN TERMS OF, IF YOU'RE ARRIVING AT THE AIRPORT, YOU ALSO HAVE TO DO THAT FIRST PART OF YOUR QUARANTINE AS A HOTEL STAY.

Jeyan says NOW, MAYBE IT'S IMPORTANT THAT WE MAYBE START TALKING ABOUT WHAT THE BORDER LOOKED LIKE BEFORE THE PANDEMIC, WHICH SEEMS LIKE A LONG TIME AWAY... A LONG TIME AGO. WHAT WAS THAT PROCESS LIKE FOR PEOPLE WHO WORKED ON EITHER SIDE OF THE BORDER?

The caption changes to "Mary Baxter, @MaryBWord."

Mary says SO PEOPLE WHO WORKED ON EITHER SIDE OF THE BORDER OFTEN WOULD USE SOMETHING CALLED A NEXUS CARD, AND IT'S A STREAMLINING OF THE BORDER CROSSING PROCESS. SO THEY ACTUALLY HAVE TO GO AND GET AN INTERVIEW IN ORDER TO APPLY FOR THIS CARD, AND IT'S A JOINT PROGRAM BETWEEN CANADA AND THE UNITED STATES. IT'S MEANT FOR LOW-RISK TRAVELLERS. AND THEY CAN USE THE CARD WHEN THEY GET TO THE BORDER TO USE A SPECIAL LANE AND THEY FLASH THEIR CARD AT AN RFID READER AND THEN BASICALLY THEY'RE ON THEIR WAY. THERE MAY BE A FEW QUESTIONS FROM THE BORDER SERVICES GUARDS, BUT THAT'S REALLY ABOUT IT. NOW, FOR MANY OF THESE WORKERS, THEY, UNDER THE NEW RULES, THEIR WORK IS DECLARED ESSENTIAL WORK. SO IT'S A LITTLE BIT DIFFERENT FROM BEING AN ESSENTIAL WORKER. IF WE SAY THAT, WE MIGHT THINK OF SOMEBODY WHO IS, FOR INSTANCE, AN AMBULANCE DRIVER OR SOMETHING. BUT DOING ESSENTIAL WORK IN TERMS OF CROSS-BORDER WORK MEANS ANYTHING FROM DOING TRUCKING TO WORKING IN A HOSPITAL TO WORKING IN CONSTRUCTION, FOR INSTANCE. SO NOW THE WAY THAT IT WORKS FOR THEM, OR THE WAY IT'S SUPPOSED TO, IS THEY ACTUALLY HAVE AN EXEMPTION FROM THE QUARANTINES AND THE TESTING IF THEY CAN PROVE THAT THEY DO ESSENTIAL WORK. AND THERE'S JUST A FEW RULES THAT ARE INVOLVED IN THAT. ONE, THEY... THERE'S CERTAIN LISTS OF DIFFERENT KINDS OF WORK THAT WOULD QUALIFY. AND THEN ALSO THERE'S A REQUIREMENT THAT THEIR PATTERN OF TRAVEL HAS TO BE REGULAR. YOU KNOW, THEY'RE CROSSING PERHAPS A FEW TIMES A WEEK OR EVERY WEEK, THAT SORT OF THING.

Jeyan says I WANT TO PICK UP ON THAT. IS THERE A DISTINCTION ABOUT PROCEDURES FOR THOSE CROSSING THE BORDER ONCE OR TWICE A MONTH OR FREQUENTLY AS ONCE A WEEK OR EVEN DAILY?

Mary says SO THIS IS ONE OF THE AREAS WHERE THERE'S AN ISSUE... AN ISSUE HAS DEFINITELY ARISEN. I HAVE BEEN TOLD BY A WINDSOR LAWYER WHO SPECIALIZES IN BORDER ISSUES AND IN IMMIGRATION. SO, FOR INSTANCE, THERE WAS A CONTRACTOR NOT TOO LONG AGO, IN FEBRUARY, WHO HAD TO GO DOWN TO THE STATES TO MONITOR A PROJECT THAT HIS COMPANY WAS DOING. AND WHEN HE CAME BACK, HE WAS TOLD THAT HIS WORK WAS NON-ESSENTIAL BECAUSE HE WAS ACTUALLY TRAVELLING MAYBE A COUPLE TIMES A MONTH, AND SO IT DIDN'T REALLY MEET THAT REGULAR PATTERN OF TRAVEL. AND WHEN HE REFUSED TO DO EITHER THE TESTING OR THE QUARANTINE, HE WAS ACTUALLY FINED NEARLY 4,000 dollars.

Jeyan says I WANT TO ACTUALLY PICK UP ON THE OTHER PEOPLE THAT YOU SPOKE TO, INCLUDING A HEALTH CARE WORKER. WHAT DID THEY HAVE TO SAY ABOUT CROSSING THE BORDER REGULARLY?

A screenshot from the TVO website pops up showing an article. It reads "tvo.org/OntarioHubs. Coronavirus. 'Constant anxiety': What it's like for essential workers crossing the border. By Mary Baxter."

Mary says WELL, THIS UNCERTAINTY AT THE BORDER, THERE'S SO MUCH UNCERTAINTY ABOUT, WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO BE STOPPED? ARE YOU GOING TO BE CONSIDERED TO BE DOING ESSENTIAL WORK? AND IT'S CREATING A LOT OF ANXIETY. SO, FOR INSTANCE, ONE NURSE THAT I INTERVIEWED, SHE HAD STARTED A NEW JOB. SHE HAD PICKED UP A JOB IN DEARBORN, MICHIGAN, AND SHE HAD TO DO HER PAPERWORK AND FILL THAT OUT BEFORE STARTING THE JOB. WHEN SHE GOT BACK TO THE BORDER, THE BORDER GUARD TOLD HER, WELL, THAT WAS A NON-ESSENTIAL TRIP SO YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE TO TEST AND QUARANTINE. SO SHE DID TEST AND QUARANTINE, BUT THAT ALSO MEANT THAT SHE ACTUALLY MISSED HER SECOND CoVID VACCINATION SHOT FOR CoVID-19 BECAUSE SHE COULDN'T GO OUT OF THE HOUSE EXCEPT, SHE WAS TOLD AT THE BORDER, SHE COULD GO TO WORK. IT WAS A VERY STRANGE SITUATION.

Jeyan says LOTS OF CONFUSION THERE. I'M CURIOUS, ARE THERE ANY SOLUTIONS TO HELP CLEAR THAT UP A LITTLE BIT?

Mary says SO ALL THROUGH THIS PROCESS, THERE HAVE BEEN CHALLENGES AND ISSUES, AND THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HAS USED SOMETHING CALLED AN ORDER IN COUNCIL TO CLARIFY SOME OF THESE QUESTIONS AS THEY ARISE THROUGH THE QUARANTINE ACT LEGISLATION. SO WHAT THIS DOES IS THAT THIS GIVES GREATER DIRECTION TO THE BORDER GUARDS WHO ARE THE ONES ON THE GROUND WHO ARE ACTUALLY MAKING THE DECISIONS. SO THAT'S KIND OF EXPECTED TO BE WHAT WILL HAPPEN IN THIS SITUATION. WHEN I ASKED THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ABOUT THIS, THE CANADIAN BORDER SERVICES AGENCY, THEY WERE ALREADY TALKING ABOUT HOW THAT REGULAR PATTERN OF TRAVEL COULD BE NOT ONLY JUST LIKE DAILY OR WEEKLY BUT, YOU KNOW, THERE COULD BE INSTANCES OF HOW TRAVELLING, YOU KNOW, A COUPLE TIMES A MONTH. BUT THEY'RE ADVISING PEOPLE TO JUST MAKE SURE THAT THEY'VE GOT DOCUMENTATION TO SHOW THAT THEY'RE AN ESSENTIAL WORKER. SO THAT MIGHT BE SOMETHING LIKE A LETTER FROM AN EMPLOYER THAT DESCRIBES THE FREQUENCY AND THE PATTERN OF TRAVEL.

Jeyan says NOW THERE'S BEEN A LOT OF FOCUS ON THE HIGH CASE COUNTS IN THIS PROVINCE BUT ALSO IN THE STATE OF MICHIGAN. WHAT ARE THE RISKS WHEN CROSSING THE BORDER FOR EMPLOYMENT?

Mary says RIGHT NOW, IN MICHIGAN, IT'S THE HOT-SPOT IN THE U.S. THERE'S AN ERUPTION OF CASES AND YOU WOULD THINK WITH THAT BEING THE CASE, THESE CROSS-BORDER WORKERS WOULD BE CONCERNED BUT THEY TELL ME THEY ACTUALLY FEEL SAFER IN THE STATES. THERE'S A COUPLE OF REASONS WHY. THEY FEEL LIKE THE STATES HAS RESPONDED TO SITUATIONS FASTER. MOST OF THE NURSES I TALKED TO, FOR INSTANCE, WERE VACCINATED. THEY WERE VACCINATED IN THE UNITED STATES AND FAR AHEAD OF NURSING HOME STAFF HERE IN ONTARIO. THEY HAD ACCESS TO PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT TO DO THEIR JOBS. ALSO, THEY'RE SIMPLY GOING BACK AND FORTH BETWEEN THEIR JOBS AND CANADA. IT'S NOT LIKE THEY ARE STOPPING ALONG THE WAY.

The caption changes to "Producer: Carla Lucchetta, @carrletta."

Jeyan says MARY BAXTER, I WANT TO THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US ON THE PROGRAM TONIGHT. AND WE'LL SEE YOU AGAIN AT ANOTHER TIME.

An animated slate reads "Ontario Hubs. Ontario Hubs are made possible by The Barry and Laurie Green Family Charitable Trust and Goldie Feldman."

Watch: Crossing the Border for Essential Work