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

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising 5 years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

Angelique Houlihan gets her COVID-19 vaccine jab last week at the community-wide clinic. (Angelique Houlihan photo)
Vaccine clinic continues this week

Plenty of booking spots available

District of Houston
Council adds flexibility to spending decisions

Singles out road works as potential beneficiary

Filling potholes in Houston
Holes filled on Highway 16

Potholes aren’t restricted to District of Houston streets. Lakes District Maintenance crews… Continue reading

In the past, the pitch-in days saw the community working together to clean-up unlike this year, when they will be encouraged to stay in their own bubbles. (Shiela Pepping photo/Houston Today)
Houston to pitch-in on Apr. 22

The Houston & District Chamber of Commerce’s 60th pitch-in day

Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Rally calls for decriminalization, safe supply on 5th anniversary of overdose emergency declaration

From 2016 to the end of February, 7,072 British Columbians died due to overdose

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Moss covered branches are seen in the Avatar Old Growth Forest near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, B.C. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. blockades aimed at protecting old-growth forests reveal First Nation split

Two Pacheedaht chiefs say they’re ‘concerned about the increasing polarization over forestry activities’ in the territory

Richmond RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng said, in March, the force received a stand-out number of seven reports of incidents that appeared to have “racial undertones.” (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
‘Racially motivated’ incidents on the rise in B.C’s 4th largest city: police

Three incidents in Richmond are currently being invested as hate crimes, says RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng

Commercial trucks head south towards the Pacific Highway border crossing Wednesday (April 14, 2021). The union representing Canadian border officers wants its members to be included on the frontline priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine. (Aaron Hinks photo)
CBSA officers’ union calls for vaccine priority in B.C.

Border officers at ports including, YVR and land crossings should ‘not be left behind’

A still from the video taken of a violent arrest on May 30, 2020 in downtown Kelowna. (File)
Kelowna Mountie charged with assault for caught-on-camera violent arrest

Const. Siggy Pietrzak was filmed punching a suspected impaired driver at least 10 times during an arrest

A screenshot from a Nuu-chah-nulth healing song and performance created in collaboration between Hjalmer Wenstob and Timmy Masso. (Screenshot from YouTube)
VIDEO: Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation brothers produce COVID-19 healing song

Hjalmer Wenstob and Timmy Masso share dance and inspiration.

Most Read