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

Alycia Weir (left) and Helena Oosthoek (right) of the Golden Family Center stand outside of the GFC building at their Bell Lets Talk stand last February. They are currently raising funds to help support their drop-in counselling program. (Claire Palmer photo)
Family center fundrasing for free counselling program

It’s important to have accesible care in the community

Seniors in the Interior Health region can book their COVID-19 vaccinations starting Monday, March 8, 2021 at 7 a.m. (File photo)
Seniors in Interior Heath region can book COVID-19 shots starting Monday

Starting March 8 the vaccination call centre will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily

Interior Health reported 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5. (Black Press Files)
Interior Health reports 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5

Over 300,000 vaccine doses have been administered provincewide.

Ryan Bavin of Bavin Glassworks in Invermere. Photo: Submitted
Call for entries for Columbia Basin Culture Tour

Deadline for registration for artists and venues is April 15

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
36 new cases of COVID-19, one death in Interior Health

The number of active cases in the region is at 366

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

Multiple people were injured at a Vernon home following an early-morning break-in Saturday, March 6, 2021. (Black Press file photo)
Multiple people left injured following break-and-enter in Vernon

Police believe the early-morning break-in was targeted and not a threat to the general public

Kelowna General Hospital (File photo)
Second COVID-19 outbreak declared at Kelowna General Hospital

One patient and one staff member on Unit have tested positive for the virus.

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

A Coldstream resident who found an owl struggling on her property in March 2021 is now spreading awareness of about the knock-on effects of rodent poisoning. (Kathy Renaud photo)
Okanagan owl ‘fighting for her life’ after ingesting rat poison

Coldstream resident warns against the use of rodenticide due to risk of secondary poisoning in raptors

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Fire ripped through a mobile home on Boucherie Road in West Kelowna on March. 6. (Phil McLachlan - West Kelowna News)
‘My whole life just went up in smoke’; Fire consumes Okanagan mobile home

RCMP confirmed that there were no injuries due to the fire

Most Read