A CBC News story on Monday asked this question: “Should Yukon consider closing the Alaska Highway to Americans?”
It’s concerning that our neighbors are considering that question. It’s embarrassing to learn why they are.
Although most American travelers are abiding by Canada’s strict rules for transiting between the Lower 48 and Alaska, there are enough scofflaws to become a concern.
Americans can travel the route for essential work or to return home, according to the CBC story. American travelers who are allowed into Canada are ordered to move as quickly as possible through the country and use as few services as they can.
In the Yukon Territory itself, travelers heading to Alaska are supposed to stay out of downtown Whitehorse and rural towns, stick to the main corridor, and complete the transit in 24 hours or less.
Tough rules, but travelers know what the rules are. It’s the travelers who don’t follow the rules that put everyone else in jeopardy.
For example, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have ticketed Americans who were hiking in Banff National Park against the rules.
Yukon citizens are reporting U.S. plates in downtown Whitehorse and in Yukon campgrounds.
"Every campground has a big red, white and black sign on the front that says 'you're not welcome here, Yukon residents only,' and (Americans) just drive past and set up camp," said Whitehorse resident Murray Lundberg in the CBC News story.
That doesn’t set well with folks.
The Canadians have established the rules that they hope will keep their citizens as safe as possible from COVID-19. They’re gracious enough to allow foreigners to travel through Canada en route to work and home on either end of the Alaska highway. Guests who flout the rules jeopardize not only the health of their hosts, but also their hosts’ willingness to continue to allow passage.
"This isn't being unfriendly," Lundberg said. "This is keeping ourselves safe, which is a responsible thing to do. If Americans aren't going to take (COVID-19) seriously, then we need to."
It would be a shame for Americans to lose the land route between the Lower 48 and Alaska for any duration, with needless and potentially ruinous costs incurred on both sides.
Yukon Premier Sandy Silver didn’t say whether the Yukon government would consider closing the border to Alaskans, noting that there always are people who feel they can circumvent the rules.
"It's up to us,” Silver said, “... to make sure that we do as much as we can to up the enforcement."
Travelers shouldn’t press their luck, or the Canadians’ hospitality, as all of the land routes between Alaska and the Lower 48 pass through Canada.