Fire chief calls on Trump and Trudeau to intervene

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A letter written by Point Roberts fire chief Christopher Carleton to President Donald Trump and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau has begun to pick up media interest with the Bellingham Herald and Global TV in Canada running stories on it. The letter was also sent to U.S. senators and representatives and their Canadian counterparts as well as local, state and county politicians.

On July 28, the fire chief was interviewed by Seattle public radio station KNKW’s Ed Jonco on All Things Considered.

In it, Carleton describes Point Roberts residents as “living under the effective equivalent of house arrest, with only the most restricted access to the basics of life supplied by the world outside our exclave existence.” Carleton pointed out that nearly half of Point Roberts’ residents had been tested for Covid-19 and that he was unaware of any positive cases in the community.

Carleton continued, writing, “As we are reasonably certain this crisis is likely to persist for a very significant length of time, we must find some effective means to mitigate the escalating impacts on the physical and mental health, safety, and wellbeing of the Point Roberts community.”

Carleton asked both governments to find a way to allow U.S. and dual citizens and green card holders to transit as needed to the mainland U.S. Canadians or others who can prove they own property in Point Roberts should also be allowed to access their property for maintenance purposes.

Blaine immigration attorney Len Saunders, a frequent commentator on border issues, said, “It’s a great letter but I don’t think it will make a difference. All the politicians are clueless and heartless.”

The chief’s letter has apparently gained traction at the county level. County executive Satpal Sidhu had this to say in personal response to Carleton’s letter:

“This is my message to the members of the Point Roberts community. First, your concerns are not falling on deaf ears. Living in perpetual lockdown, restricted to five square miles of land, is not easy and is not sustainable. Second, we have been and will continue to push our federal representatives to find a solution. I appreciate that chief Carleton is attempting to get the attention of President Trump and Prime Minister Trudeau. It’s going to take some sort of action between our countries at the federal level to find a fix.”

A letter signed by Sidhu and the mayors of Bellingham, Lynden, Ferndale, Blaine, Nooksack, Everson and Sumas dated July 23 was sent to governor Jay Inslee, senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, and U.S. representatives Suzan DelBene and Rick Larson.

The letter read, in part, as follows:

“You are well aware that our unique community of Point Roberts is facing special hardship because of the Canadian border closure for the past four months and possibly continuing through the end of this year and beyond. This closure has cut off Point Roberts’ access to ordinary and necessary services as well as to its customary source of economic sustenance.

In March, assurances were given on both sides of the border that communities with unique geographical situations, such as Point Roberts, would be given some degree of flexibility under the international border closure agreement. However, neither provincial British Columbia health authorities nor the local offices of the Canadian Border Services Agency have shown any willingness or ability to provide the flexibility necessary for a more equitable situation for the residents of Point Roberts.”

The letter called for revising the agreement governing the border closure to take into account the specific conditions experienced by Point Roberts and the handful of other communities physically isolated by border. It pointed out that the agreement currently “includes an exception for members of indigenous groups which exist as integrated trans-border communities …”

Continuing, the letter stated, “We want to underscore the urgency of finding a fix to this situation soon. We all realize that COVID-19 may be with us for many more months, and the border closure may be extended for a long period of time. We need a good solution that works for this community.”

A copy of the letter was sent to state representatives and senators in districts 40 and 42.

Requests for comment by Senator Patty Murray and U.S. Representative Suzan DelBene were not received prior to going to press.

The PDF version of Carleton's letter can be downloaded by clicking here.  The PDF version of the letter from Sidhu and the mayors of Bellingham, Lynden, Ferndale, Blaine, Nooksack, Everson and Sumas can be downloaded by clicking here

The original article from July 23 was updated to include information on chief Carleton's radio interview.

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