Alaska Transit

Date: August 10, 2020
Classification: Unclassified
Fully releasable (ATIP)? Yes
Branch / Agency: TB/CBSA

Proposed Response:


If pressed:

If pressed on transborder towns between the U.S. and Canada:


Media reports have suggested that foreign nationals are being permitted entry into Canada who, although claiming to be transiting to/from Alaska, are entering for purposes of tourism and travel within  Canada. This coverage has suggested that an unknown number of American foreign nationals are not proceeding directly to their stated destination, but are instead engaging in tourism or recreation (e.g. visiting parks or other establishments).

The RCMP have validated a number of related referrals from the general public and have issued fines to U.S. foreign nationals who had indicated upon entry their intent was to transit through Canada to Alaska. While the number of incidents is low, it will be important to address this irritant, especially as COVID-19 cases continue to escalate in the U.S.

Travellers seeking to transit from the lower 48 states to Alaska are limited to five identified ports of entry: Osoyoos, Kingsgate and Abbotsford-Huntingdon in British Columbia, Coutts, Alberta and North Portal, Saskatchewan.

Upon arrival at a one of the five identified ports of entry (POE), a traveller seeking to transit through Canada is required to substantiate their purpose for going to Alaska. Only in circumstances where the CBSA determines the traveller is transiting for a non-discretionary purpose (i.e. work or going to primary residence) will they be admitted to Canada.

The CBSA requires that these travellers provide and substantiate their intended purpose of travel. When interacting with travellers whose transit to Alaska is non-discretionary, the CBSA provides written conditions to transiting travellers requiring they transit by the most direct route, avoiding tourist locations, limits the time they are allowed in Canada and requires that they confirm their departure from Canada.

Transiting travellers are also given a tag to hang from their rear-view mirror which advises they must transit by the most direct route, use drive-thru and pay-at the pump for gasoline and wear a mask when physical distancing is not possible.  This tag also makes their vehicle easily visible to responding police agencies.

The CBSA has implemented a robust approach to ensure greater compliance and potential enforcement. This approach was launched the week of July 27.   

Transborder towns between the U.S. and Canada
Residents of two isolated border towns in B.C. and Alaska are asking to be recognized as one community and exempted from Canada-U.S. border restrictions.

Non-essential travel between the United States and Canada was shut down in March, and Canada brought in further restrictions last week that would require Americans travelling to Alaska to take the most direct route. Some residents of the closely connected border towns are asking governments to end months of isolation for businesses, family and friends.

Stewart, B.C., and Hyder, AK, at the southeastern end of the Alaska panhandle on the Canada-U.S. border, are small mining towns that have been highly integrated for more than a century. Residents said the travel restrictions cause undue hardship, especially for people in Hyder, who rely on the neighboring town for groceries, gas and other supplies.

Approved by: Calvin Christiansen, Director General, Travellers Branch, 613-954-6990

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