Lessened border restrictions leading to more cross-border shopping

By Eric Shih
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Thunder Bay Source

Cross-border shopping has picked up between Fort Frances and its neighbouring Minnesota town since the requirement for the ArriveCan app was dropped.

The federal government changed the rules for people crossing into Canada at the beginning of October, no longer needing proof of vaccination and making using the ArriveCan optional.

Denise Kulig, CEO of the International Falls Chamber of Commerce, said “once [the border] opened up, our downtown businesses saw a great influx of Canadians coming back across to shop.”

“I have noticed many Canadians coming across, whether they’re window shopping, shopping, [or] just hanging out because they can. They miss it,” she said.

Kulig is also an owner of an art gallery and gift shop, the Dressy Moose Emporium, in International Falls.

“My store has been there two years now and everybody that’s coming in, I can tell they’re Canadian when they go “How long have you been here?” because they haven’t been across in two years,” she said.

“It was sad that we got separated. I have friends in Fort Frances that I hadn’t seen in two and a half, three years. It is beyond weird to me that you’re cut off from another community. We’re sister cities.”

Kulig said the increase in border visits also goes the other way as well with people from International Falls are crossing into Fort Frances.

She said she hasn’t yet because she let her passport lapse, “but I have just noticed [an increase] for both sides. It’s just been great because we like to support the businesses on the Fort Frances side as well and the restaurants and what not. It was just really hard for [people]. It was longer than two years that you couldn’t get across if you didn’t want to mess with the app.”

Fort Frances Mayor Andrew Hallikas agreed the removal of the ArriveCan requirement has helped.

“We’re getting more cross-border traffic now that the government has eased up on some of those ridiculous regulations [of requiring the app], which really didn’t work very well and that [caused] a lot of problems so people weren’t travelling as freely as they normally did,” he said.

Hallikas said the community is starting to see some return to normalcy in cross border traffic.

“Now we’re starting to see more and more traffic, which is what we need, so we’re very pleased that those restrictions are gone,” he said.