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Northwestern Ontario border remains quiet despite loosening of travel restrictions

Only a handful of travellers were seen crossing into Minnesota at Pigeon River crossing
Lori Boomer Ron Crudge Rydens
Ron Crudge (left) picks up a number of parcels on Tuesday, Nov. 30 at Ryden's Border Store from owner Lori Boomer. (Leith Dunick,

GRAND PORTAGE, Minn. – By 8 a.m. local time on Tuesday, only a handful of Canadians had made their way to Ryden’s Border Store.

Lori Boomer was still smiling.

“It’s the busiest we’ve been in nearly two years,” said Boomer, owner of the popular cross-border store, which for decades has been a popular landing spot for packages and parcels, the first stop for many headed south to Duluth, Minneapolis and beyond for snacks and gas.

Tuesday marked the first day Canadians were given the OK to make short trips across the border, 72 hours in duration or less, without the need to provide proof of a negative molecular COVID-19 test, since the pandemic swept into the country in March 2020.

Traffic trickled into Ryden’s, picking up a bit as the day got a little longer in the tooth.

“This is wonderful. It’s been almost two years, so it’s a long-time coming,” said Boomer, whose family owned duty-free store and gas bar were shuttered for much of the pandemic, their business coming largely from Canadians who were unable to drive across the border.

“This is great. I actually thought there would be a few more people, but they’re coming.”

Among the first to stop and pick up his stash of parcels was Ron Crudge who lives a few minutes away from the border. It’s been frustrating not being able to whip across the border, something he said he did on a weekly basis before COVID-19 made it impossible.

“It’s been a pain, and quite honestly I don’t think it was fair that they’ve allowed the Americans to come in and not allowed us back in without the PCR test,” Crudge said, noting he did do one trip as a business owner, permitted to enter the United States for essential service reasons.

But he was limited on that trip, he said. “I couldn’t pick up my personal stuff. I could only pick up the stuff for my business. That’s what this is all about,” he said.

“It’s a small thing, but if we wanted to get milk I had to drive an hour each way into Thunder Bay, or 45 minutes. I can come down here in 10 minutes. It was inconvenient, for sure. I don’t think our politicians have a good handle on this and I think we’ve got to learn to live with COVID the way it is and what it’s going to be – and adapt to it, not sensationalize it.”

Canada opened its borders to fully vaccinated Americans on Aug. 9, but it wasn’t until Nov. 8 that the United States reciprocated.

Canada still requires foreign nationals to present a negative COVID-19 molecular test, taken within 72 hours of arrival, and also requires the same of returning Canadians who have been outside the country for more than 72 hours.

Returning Canadians, regardless how long they’ve been gone, for minutes or for months, must also upload vaccination and passport information to the ArriveCan app, or face quarantine upon arriving back to the country.

— TBNewsWatch