TORONTO — Canada has told the U.S. it is strongly opposed to a Trump administration proposal to put troops at the U.S.-Canada border amid the pandemic and said if it goes ahead it would damage relations between the two longtime allies.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government has 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.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Gen. James McConville, chief of staff of the U.S. Army, told Pentagon reporters during a press conference that the Army has not gotten any directive to go to the border.
Few people cross into the border into the U.S. from Canada illegally. And COVID-19 cases are surging more in the U.S. than in Canada.
Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said they have told the Trump administration there is no justification for troops at the border.
“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. is proposing is a question for American officials to answer and declined to say what the Trump administration is contemplating.
She said they are “very directly and very forcefully” expressing the view that “this is an entirely unnecessary step” that Canada would “view as damaging to the relationship.”
Freeland stressed that they are talking about a potential decision by the U.S. and said they first learned of the proposal a few days ago. Trudeau’s office has been in direct contact with the White House and Canada’s defense and public safety ministers have spoken to their counterparts.
“Our understanding is that a decision has yet not been acted upon or fully taken. But having said that, decisions are taken speedily by all governments around the world including ours,” Freeland said. “Canada is strongly opposed to this U.S. proposal.”
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.
“This is strictly showmanship on the part of the American president. It will have no practical impact. It is an attempt to impress the American public that the president is doing something,” said Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto.