OTTAWA – Canadians now have the right to travel on the Old Continent, but France would like politeness to be returned … eventually.
In an interview with La Presse Canadienne, the French ambassador to Canada, Kareen Rispal, said that the Canadian government was challenged on the issue of opening borders for European nationals.
“We are not asking for immediate reciprocity. Ultimately, we expect countries that can send their nationals to do the same, that is to say that Canada is expected to welcome Europeans in the short or medium term, “said Ms. Rispal .
At the end of June, the European Union announced that it was reopening its borders and the Schengen area to 15 countries whose epidemiological situation linked to COVID-19 was deemed satisfactory. Canada is on this list, but has not yet returned the favor.
In fact, Canada has closed its borders to foreign travelers who are not from the United States until July 31 – except for temporary foreign workers, certain international students and members of the immediate family of Canadians.
Rispal said discussions on easing for EU citizens are still underway and will continue in the coming weeks.
“We are not asking Canada to open its borders to Europeans within 15 days (…) But we hope that there will be a calendar that will allow us to see how Canada can accommodate European nationals”, a- she declared.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office says that the decisions are “based on science and public health recommendations.”
Global Affairs Canada, for its part, always advises against non-essential travel outside the country until further notice. The department also does not plan to offer other repatriation flights for Canadians stranded abroad.
Defense of multilateralism
The fact remains that the Canada-France friendship goes much further than negotiations surrounding trips to the other side of the Atlantic. The two countries have joined forces to oppose the withdrawal of the United States from the World Health Organization.
“Precisely, I believe that this American disengagement highlighted that, more than ever, France and Canada are the countries which think that ultimately nothing was invented better than a multilateral order based on international rules which would be respected by all, ”says Ms. Rispal.
During the pandemic, two countries notably established the “Alliance for Multilateralism”, which advocates global cooperation and solidarity to fight COVID-19.
“The COVID-19 crisis has shown that, more than ever, we need this international cooperation and I believe that a global epidemic requires a global response,” added the French ambassador.
President Donald Trump finally followed through on threats from his G7 counterparts. He has repeatedly accused the WHO of having been slow to respond to the pandemic and of being too complacent to China.
Green economic recovery
Canada has also followed in the footsteps of France with its programs to help businesses and individuals get through the crisis. And the two have expressed their intention to make the economic recovery an opportunity to help the environment.
For example, the French State has granted loans of seven billion euros to help Air France, on conditions.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the airline will have to make efforts to be more profitable, but also to become “the most environmentally friendly on the planet”. “This is the condition to which I am most attached,” he said.
Some members of the Trudeau cabinet, for their part, have quietly started to look into a longer-term economic recovery plan that would help the environment. The Canadian government has yet to release aid for specific multi-billion dollar economic sectors.
Situation of women
“I believe that what the COVID crisis has revealed is that women’s rights, all the advances that have been made in the area of gender equality, are very fragile structures and it is a building that risks being called into question at any time, ”underlines Ms. Rispal.
Not only has domestic violence increased during confinement, but the distribution of tasks at home has been uneven for many women who have had to manage telework and home schooling for children, says the ambassador.
Ms. Rispal is also sorry that the crisis, more generally, has been managed by men both politically and by experts invited to the media to speak about the virus.
Catherine Lévesque, The Canadian Press