Petition to use Point Roberts as test border case gathers steam

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A petition to use Point Roberts as a border opening pilot project appears to be gaining support across the border, according to a poll currently being conducted by the Delta Optimist newspaper. The petition was started by Point Roberts Chamber of Commerce president Brian Calder who posted it online May 20 on the chamber’s website.

So far, 176 people have responded to the Optimist’s poll with 149 (85 percent) in favor of opening the Point Roberts border and 27 (15 percent) against. Calder has been interviewed extensively over the last weeks and months, most recently by CKNW Radio and Global News. The CBC has also covered the proposal.

The petition points out that over 80 percent of Point Roberts residents have been vaccinated and that as Point Roberts has only one land access point, it is “ideally situated for a controlled border reopening project.” Both Canadian and American residents are eligible to sign the petition.

Calder has been pleased with the response so far: “Welcome to my world, it is wild and I am dancing as fast as I can.” Commenting on the results so far, Calder said, “It is a complete turn-around from two months ago.” The petition requests signers to send their forms to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, B.C. Premier John Horgan, governor Jay Inslee and U.S. senator Patty Murray.

Meanwhile, a proposal to vaccinate Canadians and Americans living in B.C. similar to what is being done in Montana and North Dakota appears to be bogged down by government inertia and opposition. Point Roberts fire chief Christopher Carleton has been beating the drums trying to get the project off the ground. On May 18, he received a response from Premier John Horgan via deputy minister Silas Brownsey who wrote, “The Premier appreciates your offer of assistance in delivering vaccines to British Columbia residents. I am glad to let you know that all people living in British Columbia are now able to register for vaccination, and that the province has entered Phase 4 of our COVID-19 Immunization Plan. Everyone who would like a vaccine and who is eligible to receive one will be able to receive a first dose before July 1, 2021.”

The letter went on to say, “I would also like to assure you that British Columbia is very aware of the challenges Point Roberts residents have faced as a result of border closures during the pandemic. As you know, management of the Canada-U.S. border is an area of federal jurisdiction, and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has been working closely with their U.S. counterparts to implement border measures jointly agreed to by our two countries. The situation of Point Roberts has been discussed by Premier Horgan and Governor Inslee and the Premier has also raised the issue with the Prime Minister and federal ministers.”

The response on the U.S. side was similarly uninspired. Referencing requests from Canadians to be vaccinated, local vaccine providers were advised by consultant Lara Welker, MPH, on May 13 that the Washington State Department of Health had advised that Canadians living or working in Washington were eligible to be vaccinated but all others were at the discretion of providers. Welker also cautioned that Covid vaccinations should not be advertised or promoted, adding, “We know that even without advertising, word that some in Whatcom County are providing vaccinations to Canadians will likely spread quickly.”

Carleton was scathing in his response to Welker’s advice to providers, calling it “reprehensible,” adding, “All people wanting to get vaccinated should not be in anyway subjected to such discrimination based on their national origin, sex, race or other.”

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