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‘Economic devastation’: U.S. border town pleads with Biden to allow Canadians to cross border

Isolated community is only accessible by land from Canada
Point Roberts is part of the mainland United States but not physically connected to it, to reach the community by land one must pass through Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Although Point Roberts residents can now cross the border and enter their neighbouring community of Tsawwassen without a COVID vaccine or negative test, the president of the Port Roberts Chamber of Commerce says that doesn’t solve the community’s main issue: A lack of Canadians.

“While I applaud after 18 months the Canadian government trying to do something for citizens of Point Roberts, I’m shocked that the American government does nothing,” said Brian Calder. As of Monday, fully vaccinated Americans can enter Canada for the first time since March 2020, as long as they can provide a negative COVID test. Point Roberts residents will not even have that requirement, being able to enter the neighbouring community of Tsawwassen as needed.

Calder is desperate for Canadians to be able to enter the small community, located on the Tsawwassen peninsula. Because of its geographic location, Point Roberts is only accessible from Canada – even getting its water and electricity from Canada – and Calder said the community is dying without its closest neighbours.

“We’re not at a standstill here, it’s decimation,” he said. Calder pointed to the marina, which usually has 850 boats.

“Now we have 181,” he said.

More than 70 per cent of properties are owned by Canadians who have been banned from crossing the border since March of last year.

“The marketplace would normally do $250,000 in volume and it’s doing she’s losing $30,000 a month for 18 months now. That’s a straight cash loss.”

READ MORE: Closed Canadian border leaves Point Roberts’ only grocery store on verge of closure

And while Calder is happy to see any movement on the border issue, he’s worried that the marketplace and grocery store will lose all its remaining business now that Point Roberts residents can head into Tsawwassen for their shopping.

Calder said that Washington State’s governor, senators and representatives have all reached out to U.S. President Biden but there’s been “absolutely no response whatsoever, as usual. We’ve been ignored for 18 months.”

He’s also concerned why the Canadian government is not requiring Point Roberts residents heading up to Canada to be vaccinated, nor tested for the virus, as long as they are only staying in the neighbouring community of Tsawwassen.

“Why they would allow you to go into Tsawwassen without one? That is strange to me,” Calder said, noting that while Point Roberts has an 87 per cent vaccination rate, he doesn’t want to see unvaccinated people leave and then return with COVID.

That rule comes from the Canadian Border Services Agency.

“U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are not fully vaccinated and who are habitual residents of Hyder (Alaska), Northwest Angle (Minnesota) or Point Roberts (Washington) will be eligible to enter Canada to carry out everyday functions and access goods and services within their neighbouring Canadian communities, so long as they remain in those communities while in Canada,” the CBSA stated. All other Americans heading into Canada must present a negative PCR test and be fully vaccinated.

Calder said Point Roberts has offered a plethora of solutions to hopefully allow Canadians in, including vaccinating and testing them, all at the community’s own cost but there’s been no movement from the White House.

“It’s so frustrating to be absolutely ignored.”

READ MORE: Despite Delta variant, Canada welcomes back fully vaxxed U.S. citizens, permanent residents


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