Will the U.S. put troops on Canadian border to stop COVID-19?

U.S. and Canadian flags along Windsor's riverfront. (Photo by Melanie Borrelli.)

On the same day the prime minister appointed a new Ambassador to the United States, there is a report the Trump Administration is discussing putting American troops along the Canadian border.

Global News reported the troops would be stationed within 30 kilometres of the border to stop those with the COVID-19 virus from entering the U.S. illegally from Canada. No decision had been made, and the report cited unnamed sources in the White House.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed it during his morning media briefing outside Rideau Cottage.

“Canada and the United States have the longest unmilitarized border in the world, and it is very in both of our interests for it to remain that way,” said Trudeau. “We have been in discussions with the United States on this.”

There are currently more than 65,000 people in the U.S. sickened by COVID-19. In Canada, there are 3,579 confirmed and probable cases, according to Public Health Canada, as of noon Thursday.

Canada and the U.S. mutually agreed to shut down the border to all but essential traffic one week ago to prevent the spread of COVID-19 between the two countries.

Since then, and seemingly in conflict with the new report, U.S. President Trump has publicly said he would like to scale back social distancing measures in his country to lessen the impact of the pandemic on the American economy.

On Thursday, reporters asked Trudeau how he would stop the U.S. from reopening the border before health officials say it is safe to do so.

“We will continue to work with the United States to ensure that the border measures we put in place are respected,” he assured them.

Earlier in the briefing, Trudeau announced he had appointed Kirsten Hillman as Canada’s Ambassador to the United States. Hillman has been the acting ambassador since last August and was the deputy ambassador before that.

A release from the Prime Minister’s Office said, “Hillman has played critical roles in the negotiations of important trade agreements for Canada, including the new NAFTA.” She also worked with American officials on the mutual border shutdown.

If the U.S. does put troops along the Canadian border, it would be a significant departure from the traditionally friendly relations between Canada and its southern neighbour.