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  • Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland.

    Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland. | Photo: EFE

Published 26 March 2020

“Canada is strongly opposed to this U.S. proposal and we have made that opposition very, very clear,” Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland told a news conference.

After some media, including the Wall Street Journal, reported Thursday a United States (U.S.) proposal to deploy troops along its northern border to fight the spread of the coronavirus, Canada slammed the idea as "unnecessary" and said it would "damage relations" between both countries.

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"Canada is strongly opposed to this U.S. proposal and we have made that opposition very, very clear ... this is an entirely unnecessary step which we would view as damaging to our relationship," Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland told a news conference.

"The public health situation does not require such action," she said, noting Washington had yet to take its final decision.

To many, the inflexible remarks came as a surprise since Ottawa has so far had good relations with U.S. President Donald Trump's administration over the past 18 months.

The U.S. wants to send reinforcement troops at the border to intercept undocumented migrants who they believe could contribute to the spread of the coronavirus.

Speaking Thursday evening at the White House, Trump seemed to lack details on the potential deployment of troops and said he would look into the matter.

"We have very strong deployments on the southern border, with Mexico. We had some troops up in Canada. But I'll find out about that," he said, before unexpectedly linking the issue to steel tariffs.

"I guess it's equal justice to a certain extent," he said. "You know, we have a lot of things coming in from Canada. We have trade — some illegal trade that we don't like. We have very strong sanctions on some. We have very strong tariffs on dumping steel. And we don't like steel coming through our border that's been dumped in Canada so they could avoid the tariff."

The Canada-U.S. border stretches 8,891 km and is a crossing point for one of the world's most significant bilateral trading relationships.

Both nations agreed last week to close it to non-essential travel to ease the outbreak's strain on health systems.

The United States now has the most coronavirus cases in the world, with over 82,000 infections and more than 1,200 deaths.

Canada has reported 4,043 coronavirus cases and 39 deaths.

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