Cornwall-Akwesasne-Massena border flow ‘flagged’ for study, future protocols during COVID-19 pandemic

(Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – While Canadians are being told to avoid travelling abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic, the region’s medical officer of health recognizes and says they will need to address the unique nature of the border microcosm that is Cornwall-Akwesasne-Massena.

There are two groups of people: Those who travel between Ontario, Akwesasne, Quebec and New York State for work and those regularly doing cross-border shopping.

The federal government announced today that it was shutting the border to most non-citizens due to COVID-19. The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne stated on its Facebook page that ‘Akwesasronon’ would still be free to travel.

Answering a question from Cornwall Newswatch during a conference call Monday afternoon, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis says they have been in contact with the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne as well as government officials on how that will be handled.

“We recognize that there are, on a day-to-day basis, people living in the states who work in Quebec and vice versa. That is something we’re going to have to look at very carefully with CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency) and so on. That’s been flagged to us. We don’t have an answer at this point,” Roumeliotis said.

“There’s going to be some parameters or procedures in place to ensure people don’t go back and forth with the disease but, at the same time, allow people to do their job.”

As for cross-border shopping for a few hours, Roumeliotis says he would “discourage it, personally.”

“We’re telling people to avoid big areas and gatherings and shopping to begin with. At this point, personally, I would discourage that. You don’t want to be stuck — even if it’s south of border — there might be some changes of coming out and going in,” he said.

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu recommended that people avoid gatherings of over 50 people.

Both the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne and the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe have declared states of emergency, opening the doors to emergency funding to deal with the pandemic.