Not all foreign plates a problem, says mayor

Ken Kellar

The Mayor of Fort Frances and the office of Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP Marcus Powlowski are warning the community not to jump to conclusions if they spot an out of province licence plate in town.
In a phone call to the Fort Frances Times, Mayor June Caul noted that she had received word from some members of the public that out of province -and, indeed, out of country- licence plates had been seen in and around Fort Frances. As such, she went to a few higher powers hoping to better understand the situation with our border and neighbours to the south.
“I spoke with Minister Rickford, MP Mr. Powlowski, and our OPP Chief this morning to understand the reason why some people are witnessing foreign plates in town, whether there are outside provincial or U.S. license plates,” Caul said in an email she provided to the Times that was sent to members of council and other town administrators.
“The customs and OPP must allow anyone who is a Canadian citizen to enter Canada at any time from U.S.. Sometimes these individuals even own vehicles bought and licensed in the U.S. which, when seen by residents, are thought to be non Canadians.”
However, both Mayor Caul and MP Powlowski’s office stressed that not just any U.S. citizen is currently allowed across the border into Canada.
“U.S. citizens aren’t permitted to enter Canada for non-essential purposes,” Powlowski’s office explained in an email.
“That includes but is not limited to tourism/sightseeing, recreation, entertainment, social visits to family and friends, and/or shopping for non-essential goods.”
The mayor said that so many different sources of information regarding restrictions on a local, provincial and federal level can make it confusing to parse out what measures apply to whom and in which way.
“The way I worded it is confusing because it looks like any business owner can come in and they might think ‘well, ok, I can come in and do what I want,'” Caul said of her original email.
“That’s not true. A business owner that has an essential business can come across, from what I understand, but others shouldn’t be.”
Both mayor Caul and MP Powlowski’s office point out that even as people come into Canada from the United States, they aren’t exempt from the safety measures that have been put in place in Ontario and Canada due to COVID-19.
“All U.S. citizens seeking entry will be screened and asked about the nature of their travel, in addition to details about their self-isolation plan,” Powlowski’s office explained.
“If they are granted entry –with the exception of essential workers– they need to self-isolate immediately for 14 days or they could face fines up to $750,000 and/or 6 months in prison.”
The same applies to Canadian citizens returning to the country.
It’s also important to note, the mayor said, that once travellers come into Canada, they are closely monitored to ensure they keep themselves and the greater public safe.
“The OPP and Border Services receive a list from the RCMP of those who have entered Canada every day and therefore can check those in our area,” she confirmed, and added that the town is working with the local OPP and CBSA to get frequent updates about border crossings.
The mayor’s email also points out that some out of province plates may belong to construction workers who are working on one of the several projects that are ongoing in town.
However, even though the public is asked not to jump to conclusions over foreign plates doesn’t mean concerns aren’t being taken seriously.
“If anyone has information about suspicious cross-border activity or illegal entry into Canada, please advise them to contact the CBSA Border Watch Line at 1-888-502-9060,” Powlowski’s office wrote.
“If anyone sees an out of province vehicle and is concerned about them not being here legitimately, don’t be afraid to call the OPP,” mayor Caul agreed. “They do check.”
Those with concerns are asked to call the Border Watch Line or the OPP’s non-emergency line at 1-888-310-1122.
This week the CBSA also announced the temporary suspension of the Remote Area Border Crossing (RABC) program due to COVID-19. RABC permit holders cannot use their permits to enter Canada until the restrictions are lifted. The agency did not provide a timeframe for how long the restriction would be in place.