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

Mayor Colin Basran at the announcement of the 2021 Tim Horton’s Brier to be hosted in Kelowna on Nov. 21. (Contributed)
Tim Hortons Brier not coming to Kelowna

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted Curling Canada to move to hub model, similar to the NHL playoffs

An Enderby restaurant and pub has been shut down since Sunday afternoon, Nov. 29, 2020 as a precaution after a guest reportedly tested positive for COVID-19. (Howard Johnson photo)
Enderby pub shuts down after guest reportedly tests positive for COVID-19

The Howard Johnson hotel, restaurant and pub has been closed since Sunday afternoon, Nov. 29

Charitables is partnering with Mamas for Mamas and the Central Okanagan Food Drive for a holiday gift drive. (Charitables)
Shop local, support the vulnerable: Kelowna marketplace partners with charities for holiday gift drive

Charitables is partnering with Mamas for Mamas and the Central Okanagan Food Bank

Renee Merrifield speaking to media on her front doorstep after being declared the winner of the Kelowna-Mission riding for the BC Liberal Party on Oct. 24, 2020. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Central Okanagan MLA’s take on new roles

Renee Merrifield will be taking over for Norm Letnick as the BC Liberal Caucus’ health critic

Vernon taxpayers can expect a 2.55 per cent increase for 2021. (File photo)
Vernon scales back 2021 tax increase

Pause of infrastructure levy program reduces burden on taxpayers

A tongue-in-cheek message about wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 on a sign outside a church near Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection count climbs back up to 656

20 more people in hospital, active cases still rising

Robert Gibson, born November 24, 2020 is in BC Children’s Hospital. Photo contributed
Princeton baby fights for his life, with parents at his side

A Go Fund Me campaign has been started to help family with expenses

Grapevine Optical was the victim of an early morning break and enter Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2020. (Crime Stoppers Okanagan / Facebook)
Collection of designer sunglasses stolen from South Okanagan eye-wear shop

Crime Stoppers is seeking the identity of two male suspects

By this time next year, the BC Green Pharmadeuticals cannabis growing facility in Princeton is expected to employ at least 150 people, according to the owner. (File photo)
Princeton cannabis plant thriving despite lawsuit and bad press, says owner

Company expects to hire 30 more employees in the next two months

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Interior Health said its new toll-free line will help people connect to health-care services. (File)
Interior Health expands toll-free line to improve access to community care

By calling1-800-707-8550, people can be connected to several health-care services

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Most Read