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Cross-border families look to reunite as US-Canada border reopens later this month

World’s longest land border has been closed to non-essential travel since March 2020
Published: Aug. 4, 2021 at 6:33 PM EDT
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LONDON, Ontario (WTVG) - The world’s longest land border has been closed to non-essential travel since the beginning of the pandemic, and that closure has been hitting some Canadian/American couples especially hard.

Jaslyn Declercq and her fiancé Thomas Musgrave have been together for 4 years and used to regularly drive between his home in Findlay and hers near London, Ontario.

“Every other weekend, I drove down to see him,” says Declercq. “In the spring, we found out we were expecting a child together ... and in December 2018, we welcomed her to the world here in Ontario; he came up here.”

Thomas was able to be there for baby Madilynn’s milestones through her first 15 months. Then, in March 2020, the US-Canada border closed, leaving Jaslyn and family on one side and Thomas on the other.

“We thought it was just going to be for 30 days, which was OK,” she said. “We can deal with 30 days. ... Then it just kept rolling over and rolling over.”

Flights between countries are allowed, though a ticket for more than $500 for a puddle-jumper to Detroit is a stark difference from $5 at the bridge.

“In June of last year, Canada made an exemption for immediate family which he qualified for,” Declercq says. “Unfortunately, it came with the tag of having to stay here for 15 days, and he only has two weeks of vacation time in the year.”

Jaslyn then saved up enough for a flight from Toronto to Detroit so Thomas could see Madilynn for her birthday.

“We flew back three hours before she turned 2 just so I would be able to afford the flight,” Declercq recalls. “When we were last down there, [Madilynn] was still pretty much a baby, still an early walker, finger foods and such. Now she can eat with a fork and form full sentences ... a complete change from the baby that was down in Findlay.”

There’s finally some light at the end of the tunnel (or bridge). As it stands, fully-vaccinated Americans will be able to cross into Canada for non-essential travel again on August 9th, but Canadians cannot cross into the U.S. until August 21. That disconnect is one of several that had Jaslyn, Thomas, and thousands of other cross-border families forming “Let Us Reunite”, a grassroots campaign for reunification.

“We’re a mix of Canadians and Americans, all pressuring the U.S. government to give us answers,” Declercq says. “We take part in writing/e-mail campaigns, calling local congresspersons and senators to get some movement going.”

For reference, Canada’s vaccine rollout started slow, and only 8% of our neighbors to the north were fully vaccinated as of June 1. In just two months, that figure has grown sevenfold to 56% -- now a higher percentage of the population when compared to 50% in the United States.

“Both Thomas and I are fully vaccinated, and when he comes up here, he has to get tested,” Declercq explains. “We’re 100% about doing this safely, and completely on board with even having testing at the border implemented. This whole time, we were hearing we were waiting on Canada to the point where we were safe. We’ve now hit that threshold, and for the U.S. to not have any answers ... they didn’t even make a statement, it just kind of got released on their website and tweeted out through Homeland Security.”

While regular cross-border visits should be allowed within the next few weeks, Jaslyn -- and Madilynn -- say it can’t come soon enough.

“It’s going to mean everything to be able to take her down to his home again,” Declercq said. “It’s hard to tell her we can’t yet. She’s only 2 and a half, so ‘not yet’ means forever away.”

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