Steve Power points to a plaque noting the international boundary between Canada and the United States as he stands on the American side of a beach in Point Roberts and his wife, Patsy Reis-Power visits him with their granddaughters on the Canadian side at Centennial Beach in Delta, B.C. Power took a plane to Point Roberts, where the couple owns property, because he couldn’t cross the land border due to COVID-19 restrictions that both Americans and Canadians want eased during the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Camille Bains

Steve Power points to a plaque noting the international boundary between Canada and the United States as he stands on the American side of a beach in Point Roberts and his wife, Patsy Reis-Power visits him with their granddaughters on the Canadian side at Centennial Beach in Delta, B.C. Power took a plane to Point Roberts, where the couple owns property, because he couldn’t cross the land border due to COVID-19 restrictions that both Americans and Canadians want eased during the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Camille Bains

Canadians and Americans want loosened COVID-19 restrictions for border town

Public Health Agency of Canada said exemption to the 14-day quarantine not applicable to Point Roberts

Steve Power is standing on a beach across from his wife and two granddaughters, but they’re ever so careful not to break the law by touching each other or stepping over an invisible line in the sand that separates the United States from Canada.

The boundary between the two countries is indicated on a plaque affixed to a giant concrete block near them between Centennial Beach in Delta, B.C., and Maple Beach in Point Roberts, Wash. A camera mounted close by is monitored by border officials stationed a few blocks away.

Power and his wife Patsy Reis-Power live in Coquitlam, B.C., about an hour’s drive from Point Roberts, and are among Canadians who own property there but can’t cross the border due to COVID-19 restrictions barring non-essential travel, except by air.

READ MORE: Non-essential travel restrictions at Canada-U.S. border extended to at least Nov. 21

Power chartered a four-seater plane for about $1,000 at the Boundary Bay airport in Delta, flew to Point Atkinson, Wash., where he cleared customs, and landed in Point Roberts so he could do some maintenance work on two properties.

“I just came by myself just because I didn’t want to share the small cockpit with people I didn’t know. And the pilot was really cautious about everything and had a full mask on,” Power said.

On this day, Power drove an old vehicle he keeps in Point Roberts to Roosevelt Way by the beach before meeting his wife and seven- and 10-year-old granddaughters who call him “Pop Pop.”

A second meeting place for residents of Point Roberts and Canada exists at the other end of that street, where people on either side of the border park their lawn chairs to chat across a road, some families passing food back and forth under the watchful eye of a camera mounted overhead.

Point Roberts is disconnected from the rest of Washington by water, requiring residents to drive through B.C. before crossing a second border into the state. But that trip can currently happen only under strict exemptions including for medical appointments.

Canadians and Americans with connections to the community want the border restrictions eased in keeping with a recent exemption to the 14 days’ quarantine for other border towns including Stewart, B.C., next to Hyder, Alaska, and Campobello Island, N.B., where residents must drive into Maine to access other parts of the province.

Brian Calder, president of the Point Roberts Chamber of Commerce, said he’s “outraged” that neither residents nor Canadians who own 75 per cent of the property there can cross back and forth while “sealed” in their vehicles without having to quarantine for 14 days, especially because the community of about 1,200 people has had no cases of COVID-19.

Calder said drivers transporting goods to the local grocery store and elsewhere make regular trips to “Point Bob” and tradespeople are free to cross the border into B.C. for supplies so others who rely on services, such as physiotherapy, should also be permitted to go directly to their destination and return home.

The biggest challenge for the community, which balloons to 5,000 people in the summer with Canadian visitors, is that the bulk of its economy is dependent on people crossing the border to buy gas or groceries, visiting its few restaurants or picking up packages at six shipping stations, Calder said.

“It isn’t sink or swim, it’s sink or sink,” Calder said of job losses, adding he has written to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee as well as federal politicians in Canada who have “abandoned” residents, 50 per cent of whom, like himself, are dual American-Canadian citizens.

READ MORE: U.S.-Canada border closure hurts Washington state town

Inslee’s office has been in regular contact with the Canadian consulate in Seattle and several recent changes have been implemented, a spokesman for the governor said.

“Students will now be able to cross the border to attend school, which was an important issue for Point Roberts residents,” Mike Faulk said in a statement.

The 14-day quarantine exemption announced last Friday by Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and Health Minister Patty Hajdu applies only to residents accessing the necessities of life, such as food and medical services, from the nearest Canadian or American community.

The Public Health Agency of Canada said an exemption to the 14-day quarantine would not be applicable to Point Roberts.

“Based on an assessment of the circumstances specific to Point Roberts, members of this community currently can access the necessities of life within their own community, and are not required to cross the border,” it said in a statement.

Stewart Mayor Gina McKay said her town joined their Alaskan neighbours to lobby governments in both countries.

“We’re all one community here, and we’re two very isolated communities as well,” McKay said, adding there is no U.S. customs crossing for Canadians going into Hyder but there is a Canadian Border Services Agency checkpoint.

She said the 63 Alaskans who depend on a grocery store and other necessities in Stewart were stuck at home for seven months.

McKay said the quarantine measure should also be eased for residents of Point Roberts and the Canadians who live there because they have been dependent on one another for decades.

“I really do feel for them because I watched what happened to this very small group of people on the other side of us,” she said.

READ MORE: Point Roberts man reconnects Canadians with yachts moored in U.S.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Armstrong Green Space Society is calling for the preservation of the Royal York Golf Course, which may be in jeopardy pending an application to use the land for a major housing development. (File photo)
Armstrong group calls on council to spare local golf course from housing development

The Armstrong Green Space Society was formed in 2019 after word of the development surfaced

A new public space build on a sediment deposit in the Sicamous Narrows is a possible part of a flood mitigation barrier outlined in a recent report given to Sicamous’ council. (Kerr Wood Leidal Image)
Sicamous flood protection plan, public walkway come with hefty price tag

New barrier against higher seasonal lake levels called a proactive approach by mayor

Movie crews filmed a holiday parade in Summerland in July. The parade, filmed on Main Street in Summerland, is for the movie, The Christmas Yule Blog. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

Vicki Proulx, executive director of the Vernon Winter Carnival Society, stands beneath a lights display the society lit up in Spirit Square Nov. 27, by way of announcing it will be taking over the 2021 downtown light-up event. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Vernon Winter Carnival Society lights up downtown square

The society announced it will be taking over next year’s downtown light-up event

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Langley RCMP issued a $2,300 fine to the Riverside Calvary church in Langley in the 9600 block of 201 Street for holding an in-person service on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, despite a provincial COVID-19 related ban (Dan Ferguson/Black Press Media)
Langley church fined for holding in-person Sunday service

Calvary church was fined $2,300 for defying provincial order

A pedestrian makes their way through the snow in downtown Ottawa on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Wild winter, drastic swings in store for Canada this year: Weather Network

In British Columbia and the Prairies, forecasters are calling for above-average snowfall levels

NDP Leader John Horgan, left, speaks as local candidate Ravi Kahlon listens during a campaign stop at Kahlon’s home in North Delta, B.C., on April 18, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
(Randy Mills/@poohbah431111 - Twitter)
Motorcyclist rushed to Kelowna General Hospital after collision

The collision occurred around 7:15 p.m. at the intersection of Highway 33 and Gerstmar Road

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Most Read