By Meg Olson
It’s official. Point Roberts and the rural community of Campobello Island, New Brunswick have been recognized by Sister Cities International as sister cities.
It was a natural fit, according to Point Roberts Registered Voters Association founder Ruby White. “They’re mirror images,” she said.
The sister city agreement was signed by both the mayor of Campobello Island and Joel Lantz, president of the voters association.
Both communities are exclaves, with no road connection to the mainland of their respective countries except through the neighboring nation. While Point Roberts residents need to cross into Tsawassen B.C, drive a half an hour, and then cross back into the U.S. to get to the rest of Washington, Campobello residents do the opposite. They need to cross a bridge spanning the narrow channel that separates the island from Lubec, Maine, cross the border into the U.S. and drive one and a half hours to cross back into New Brunswick at St. Stephen.
As a result, the two communities share similar challenges: access to services, getting a bang for their tax bucks and getting their groceries home.
“We’re in the same boat on different shores,” White said. “It would be nice to go to Bellingham and buy a petunia without having to worry about it.”
Crossing two borders means two sets of inspections with different and changeable rules. At a 2010 meeting that brought together senior managers from both U.S. and Canadian border agencies, the community was told by U.S. officials that they there were no restrictions on what they could bring on to the Point after a same day shopping trip to Bellingham, provided they had receipts.
Not so for Canada. Their position was that there was no provision in their policy for goods in transit and they needed to meet importation requirements regardless of destination.
Both communities struggle with convenient access to services due to border delays and regulations. Point Roberts residents get some relief from having a NEXUS lane at both ends of their trek through Canada, while Campobello residents don’t have NEXUS to get on and off the island, though there are NEXUS lanes at the St. Stephen/Calais crossing.
In the summer, Campobello residents can get to the mainland with a two-leg ferry trip. “That’s where I’d like to see our transportation benefit district funds go – for a ferry,” said Lantz.
White said she hoped the sister city relationship would help both communities lobby both governments for legislative changes to address their unique needs.
“I ultimately hope this can be the entity that works with both the U.S. and Canada to enter into reciprocal legislation,” she said.