COURTESY KAHNAWAKE 911
In response to the changes made to the Canada Customs Border Agency (CCBA), which since last week requires non-essential travellers to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours, the Kahnawake Task Force implemented Directive #58.
The announcement released last Thursday (February 18) stated that despite Canada allowing exemptions from testing and isolation for specific cross-border workers, the Task Force requires that all workers who cross into the United States for periods of longer than 24 hours must self-isolate for 14 days upon their return.
Chief Peacekeeper (PK) and Task Force member Dwayne Zacharie said that he had not received any feedback from the community since the directive went into effect.
“When you get to the border, if you do not fit into one of the exemption categories, then you are required to have a test,” said Zacharie.
The criteria to be exempt from isolation measures in the community include:
– Having proof of a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test results within 72 hours of crossing the border (rapid tests are not accepted).
– A person who has proof of a weekly negative PCR test.
There may be other limited work-related scenarios where an exemption may be provided, according to the Task Force.
“Everything that the Task Force does is for the safety and security of the community,” said the chief PK.
He stressed that when it comes to Kahnawake, because it is such a small and close-knit community, the need to mitigate the virus is vital compared to bigger communities.
If a person does not have proof of a negative test within 72 hours or negative weekly screenings, they must isolate for 14 days.
According to Zacharie, local ironworkers who travel to the United States for work should meet the criteria needed to be exempt from the isolation period required under Directive #58.
“Ironworkers are exempt from having a test to cross the border to come back home. And what that means is that when they get to the border, they will be able to cross without showing a negative coronavirus test,” said Zacharie.
Furthermore, they must now also prove that they are employed to work on the other side of the border.
The chief PK said that the onus was on the worker crossing the border to prove they are exempt and have steady employment to assist with their passage.
“Recent pay stubs and work contracts are essential. The more information you have that you are gainfully employed in the United States, it is going to help you out a lot,” he said.
Community members travelling to the United States on day trips for work, medical appointments, to pick up prescription medication or for child custody arrangements are also exempt from mandatory testing and isolation, provided that they travel directly from home to their intended destination.
Zacharie said that he gets calls from community members on a weekly basis asking if they are allowed to cross the border to pick up mail or groceries and he stressed that they are not exempt upon their return.
“If you cross the border to go and get your mail, when you get to the border, you are going to have to prove that you have a negative coronavirus test,” said Zacharie.
In addition, Zacharie explained that Kahnawa’kehró:non who don’t have a negative result to show at the border crossing will have to undergo a test which on the US side of the border will have fees associated.
“Once you cross into Canada, they will require that you isolate. We already require it too. And now they added a few stricter criteria for people,” he said.
Not only will people have to provide a negative test result, but they will also have to provide contact information as CCBA has intensified their post-border crossing check-ups.
“When people come back to Kahnawake, everything they do affects everyone here, so I recommend that everyone stay current with the COVID-19 Task Force directives to make sure that they are complying,” said Zacharie.