Some Canadians in British Columbia are worried about what they view as an illegal influx of boaters from the United States in their waters. The U.S.-Canada border has been closed since March to nonessential traffic because of the COVID-19 pandemic; the ban was just extended the fourth time to continue through August 20.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the U.S. Coast Guard have formed a joint operation called Shiprider to intercept U.S. vessels that are in Canadian waters illegally. And the Canada Border Services Agency warned Americans that crossing the border for recreation or tourism is prohibited. It said that U.S. boat owners who enter Canada without reporting to them, even for a refueling stop, face penalties ranging from a $1,000 fine and possible seizure of their vessels to up to six months in prison.
Some Canadian authorities and boat owners are using AIS to track the movement of boats coming from Washington state to the east coast of Vancouver Island. Bill Wilson, the president of the Council of B.C. Yacht Clubs, sent a letter to his 10,000 members asking them to be on the lookout for U.S. boats.
He said he thinks some Americans are using the “Alaska loophole” to circumvent the border closing; it allows U.S. boaters returning home to Alaska, for example, to transit through Canada. “A lot of these boats appear to be crossing the border and then taking their time and enjoying cruising in Canadian waters,” he said.
Last week, John Horgan, the British Columbia premier, tweeted, “Our government fought hard to get the border closed, and it needs to remain closed until the U.S. gets a handle on this pandemic. We cannot risk the progress we have made to keep British Columbians healthy and safe.”
American boaters can enter Canadian waters legally if they are dual citizens, visiting immediate family members, or classified as essential workers. Read more: