American visitors trickled across the Canada-US border on Monday, cheering the reopening of the world's longest land boundary 17 months after all non-essential travel was halted to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Ottawa lifted quarantine requirements for US citizens and permanent residents arriving with proof of vaccination.
"It's absolutely wonderful," Vicki Poulin said of the border reopening. "We're just so happy to be here."
The Canadian-born resident of Queensbury, New York, her American husband and their dog Sully used to make the trip to see her extended family in Montreal almost every month, but have not been able to visit since the border was shuttered in March 2020.
At the Lacolle, Quebec checkpoint, 65 kilometers south of Montreal, drivers rolled up one after another with proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test prior to travel in hand.
Most travelers interviewed by AFP said their crossings went smoothly. Lineups were much shorter than expected and border agents' review of documents took only a few minutes for each vehicle.
Richard Antaki, who left before dawn and drove nonstop from New York City to be among the first in line at the border crossing, was all smiles.
"I was so happy that they opened [the border] because I have a lot of friends in Canada," he said.
The octogenarian globetrotter said he was so eager to reconnect with friends in Montreal that he hasn't seen in more than a year and a half that he "didn't touch the brakes" of his car the entire ride up.
In recent months, Ottawa and Washington faced intense pressure from travel and tourism groups to ease travel and border restrictions.
Starting from September 7, if COVID-19 case numbers remain relatively low, Canada is to further lift restrictions to allow all foreign nationals to also fly to the country for leisure.
In anticipation, the government on Monday authorized five more Canadian airports to once again receive international flights, though quarantines upon arrival are still mandated for airline passengers - for now.