Toronto – The Trump administration has reportedly abandoned a plan to send U.S. troops to the Canadian border amid the pandemic.
Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government had been in discussions with the White House about convincing the U.S. not to do it.
“Canada and the United States have the longest un-militarized border in the world and it is very much in both of our interests for it to remain that way,” Trudeau said.
Trump said the U.S. has troops at the border but then said he would need to find out about that. He then suggested he would deploy troops along the Canadian border to match what is being done at the Mexican border.
“I guess it’s equal justice to a certain extent,” Trump said. “We have a lot of things coming in from Canada, we have trade, some illegal trade, that we don’t like.”
But the Wall Street Journal Thursday evening reported that the Trump administration had dropped the plan outright.
The U.S. military does not play any role in policing steel shipments. And the U.S. has not sent troops to the border to police the mutual closing of that border to non-essential, non-commercial traffic. The border is controlled on both sides by non-military entry stations.
According to a U.S. official, the Department of Homeland Security did make a formal request to the Pentagon for military forces to provide additional security along the northern border, between entry points. The official said the request was made a few days ago and the Defense Department has done some initial planning but there was no final decision on whether or not to approve the request.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said there was no discussion about closing the border, only about beefing up efforts to prevent any illegal crossings.
Another Trump administration official said they were considering additional actions to ensure “personnel at our borders have the resources and operational support needed to address the profound public health threat of uncontrolled cross-border movement during a pandemic.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to discuss internal discussions.
Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said they had told the Trump administration there is no justification for troops. Very few people cross the border into the U.S. from Canada illegally and Canada has universal health care and widespread testing for the virus. And COVID-19 cases are surging more in the U.S. than in Canada.
“What we have said is, ‘We really do not believe at all that there would be a public health justification for you to take this action,’” Freeland said. “And we have said ‘We really don’t think is the right way to treat a trusted friend and military ally.’”
Freeland said the specifics of what the U.S. was proposing was a question for American officials to answer and declined to say what the Trump administration was contemplating.
She said they were “very directly and very forcefully” expressing the view that “this is an entirely unnecessary step” that Canada would “view as damaging to the relationship.”
Canada has more than 3,400 cases, 35 deaths and has tested over 158,000 people.
Canada relies on the U.S. for 75 percent of its exports. About 18 percent of Canada’s exports go to the U.S. The two countries have already closed the border both ways to all non-essential travel.
Bruce Heyman, a former U.S. ambassador to Canada, said it would be a serious misuse of resources and a dangerous and inappropriate use of American troops. “It makes no military sense,” he said.
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