State politicians call for border relaxation

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State senator Doug Ericksen and representatives Luanne Van Werven and Sharon Shewmake have called upon federal elected politicians to intercede with border authorities to relax restrictions on travel by Point Roberts residents. The letter follows ones from county mayors and officials, fire chief Christopher Carleton and others.

The latest letter was addressed to U.S. senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and U.S. representatives, Suzan DelBene, Rick Larson and Cathy McMorris. Acknowledging the challenging nature of the pandemic, the letter pointed out that Point Roberts “is a unique place facing disproportionate hardship,” adding, that residents “rely heavily on resources and services provided in Canada or mainland Whatcom County including food and groceries, health care visits, and even employment opportunities. With the current border crossing restrictions, Point Roberts residents continue to struggle.”

The letter asked that the recipients use their positions “as U.S. Senators and Congressmembers to engage with our U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection to negotiate with the Canadian government, Province of British Columbia, and Canada Border Services Agency. We seek greater clarity and flexibility in our current border crossing agreement in addition to including specific provisions addressing the unique needs of Point Roberts and our constituents.”

The press release states that providing false information to a border service officer may lead to consequences such as being denied entry and/or being banned from returning to Canada.

Point Roberts is not the only border community stuck in a similar situation. The small town of Hyder, Alaska, population 63, relies on its Canadian counterpart of Stewart, B.C., population 425, for its fuel, groceries and other necessities of life. In an August 6 Vancouver Sun article, the two towns have formed a Hyder Stewart Action Committee to petition federal, provincial and state governments in both countries.

“We want the government to say Hyder and Stewart meet all the criteria to be officially recognized as an integrated transborder community,” said Carly Ackerman. “And that residents of Hyder and Stewart can travel over the border without the mandatory 14-day quarantine,” reported the Sun.

The town of Hyder can only be reached by the rest of Alaska by flying or by road from B.C. The vast majority of visitors enter from B.C.

Also suffering mightily from the border closure is Campobello Island in New Brunswick and Lubec, Maine. The only way to access the island by road is through Lubec and consequently, both communities are hurting from a lack of traffic. Whale watching tours from Lubec have been hampered by the fact that the whales are most commonly found in Canadian waters, which U.S. boats cannot enter. Like Point Roberts, many residents have family in the other country and are unable to visit each other.

For information on Canada's recent closing of the Alaska "loophole," click here

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