By Brad Dokken
Three Republican members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation have written a letter to President Joe Biden, asking his administration to prioritize a bilateral plan to reopen the U.S.-Canada border, which has been closed to nonessential travel since last March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reps. Michelle Fischbach, Pete Stauber and Tom Emmer sent the letter Monday, Feb. 22, in advance of Tuesday’s meeting between Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“We write to express our serious concerns over the continued closure of America’s northern border. As you may know, Minnesotans along our Canadian border rely heavily on tourism and cross-border travel to support their businesses. They have been hit especially hard by the pandemic-related travel restrictions, devastating local economies,” the letter reads.
The letter makes specific reference to the Northwest Angle, that small chunk of land at the tip of Minnesota surrounded on three sides by Canada and accessible from the U.S. only by crossing Lake of the Woods. An ice road that crosses 22 miles of Lake of the Woods and 8 miles of land along the Minnesota-Manitoba border has restored vehicle access for the winter, to the benefit of Northwest Angle businesses, but the community again will be isolated as the ice melts, the letter states.
“With widespread COVID-19 treatment options and vaccine deployment well underway, we believe it is time to safely reopen the route to the Angle, a 40-mile road through a remote and low-populated area, to provide a lifeline to its struggling businesses,” the letter states. “There are many potential solutions, namely a trade corridor that would allow all economic activity to resume on the Angle safely and with accountability. As we approach a full year with a closed northern border, it is critical to this remote community that a solution is found before access points are once again closed off for tourists.”
The letter comes on the heels of an announcement Friday, Feb. 19, from Canadian Public Safety Minister Bill Blair that the border will remain closed to nonessential travel until at least March 21, exactly a year after the closure went into effect. The border closure has been extended on a month-by-month basis ever since, much to the detriment of businesses at the Angle and Canadian resorts and other businesses that rely on U.S.-based tourism.