Crackdown on 'Alaska-loophole' welcomed by Alberta border community

The federal government is cracking down on Americans who have been crossing the border claiming to be travelling to Alaska. As Emily Olsen reports, officials from the border Village of Coutts as well as Waterton Lakes National Park say the news has been long awaited.

The Canadian government is tightening borders in response to concerns raised about Americans using an “Alaska-loophole” to gain access, claiming they are on their way to the northern state.

Officials from many of Alberta’s national parks have reported seeing such tourists.

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Waterton Lakes National Park officials, though, say they haven’t been hit as hard, due in part to its location.

“The borders that are close to us are closed, so they have to sort of go in a different direction,” Waterton Park Chamber of Commerce VP Shameer Suleman said Friday. “They’re more hitting Banff, Jasper and Lake Louise. We’re seeing very few American plates out here. I did see a bunch sort of a month ago, but not so much anymore.”

But in Coutts, those license plates pass by the border community daily, and Mayor Jim Willett says he welcomes the crackdown.

“When you start seeing license plates from someplace else, other than Alberta, you start wondering about where they came from, where they’re going and what they’re doing here,” the mayor said. “The moves that the federal government has put into place are what people have been looking for since probably the middle of March.”

Willett also wonders if some of the untraced cases recently popping up in the province could be connected to the “Alaska-loophole.”

“They’ve told them now that you’ll only eat at drive-thrus and you’ll only buy gas at the pump,” Willett said. “It’s a very restrictive thing and I think that’s as it should be, all you have to do is look at the stats.”

The mayor says he’s hoping to see the COVID-19 checkpoints for all American traffic, and for the government to take more steps to protect Canadians.

“I was one of the first people that said that the commercial truckers shouldn’t just get a free pass where they get asked, ‘Are you feeling okay today?’ And let them go on through without at least a temperature check and maybe a little better idea of where they’re going,” Willett explained.

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Identification tags are now being given to Alaska-goers at the Coutts border crossing with a deadline to leave and a list of restrictions while on Canadian soil.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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