OTTAWA—A U.S. proposal to station troops across its border with Canada as a defence against a virus invasion appeared to be off the table Thursday night, just hours after Canadian took offence and voiced objections.
The federal government came out swinging earlier in the day, declaring that it strongly opposed a proposal by the White House to deploy American troops to stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic by illegal border-crossers.
Using uncommonly tough language, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland — Ottawa’s point person on U.S. relations — warned that Canada would view a troop deployment “as damaging to our relationship.
“The idea to have America troops sent to our border is unnecessary. The public health situation does not require such action and on the Canadian side we do not think it would be appropriate given the very cordial relationship that our two countries have,” Freeland told a news conference.
“We just don’t think this is the right way to treat a trusted friend and military ally.”
On Thursday evening, the Wall Street Journal reported the idea had been nixed, putting an end to the possibility that the border so famously free of a military presence could see U.S. troop deployments to fight the pandemic.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had confirmed earlier Thursday that he was aware of the proposal to have American troops help border agents detect people trying to sneak into the U.S.
“Canada and the United States have the longest unmilitarized border in the world and it is very much in both of our interests to remain that way. We have been in discussions with the United States on this,” Trudeau said in his daily briefing.
He said the fact the border is not militarized is “something that has benefited our two countries and both our economies tremendously.
“We feel that it needs to remain that way,” he said.
The U.S. government appeared to back down Thursday night from a proposal to deploy American troops along the Canada-U.S. border to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, after the Canadian government called the idea an affront to relations between the two nations.