A research institute at Western Washington University is partnering with two Canadian universities to study several cross-border topics in the Cascadia region, including the impacts of pandemic travel restrictions.
WWU’s Border Policy Research Institute (BPRI) and Simon Fraser University will partner on “Pandemics and Borders,” a two-year project that will look at the impacts of travel restrictions during the pandemic with the goal of preventing future inequities. Researchers will examine travel restrictions, quarantine, testing and vaccine requirements, according to a BPRI news release.
The research will address a critical gap in knowledge on pandemic travel restrictions, according to BPRI. BPRI director Laurie Trautman said it may be the first study to bring together public health and border policy expertise at the U.S./Canada border.
“It’s an opportunity to hopefully make a strong case that these border restrictions were impactful and were measures that should not be implemented quickly or easily next time,” she said. “We should be cautious and careful on how we restrict cross-border mobility because it impacts people’s lives and livelihoods.”
Researchers will meet with individuals and focus groups to learn how border communities, including those in Blaine and Point Roberts, were impacted during U.S./Canada border travel restrictions. The study will be given to the Canadian government and World Health Organization to map out future policies, such as a more clearly defined essential versus nonessential designation, Trautman said.
BPRI and the University of Victoria are also working together for seven years on several projects including research on the 2026 FIFA World Cup, which will be held in Seattle and Vancouver, among other cities. Other cross-border projects in the “21st Century Borders Partnership” will analyze natural hazard management, cross-border infrastructure and institutional frameworks. Topics to be researched include transboundary communication when Mount Baker erupts and looking at how well Washington state and B.C. counterparts connect, such as having a cross-border representative in the governor’s office.
“You have different government structures between the U.S. and Canada so oftentimes it can become difficult for the agencies to collaborate because they don’t have a counterpart on the other side,” Trautman said. “We hope to map all of that out so people have a good idea of the counterparts and identify if ones don’t exist.”
The “21st Century Borders Partnership” will work to connect university researchers to policymakers, and BPRI will hire a postdoctoral fellow for the “Pandemics and Borders” project. The projects are being funded by the Social Science and Human Research Council of Canada Partnership Grant and New Frontiers in Research Fund.
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