POINT ROBERTS (NEWS 1130) — A man from Point Roberts, with strong ties to Vancouver, says the toll COVID-19 has taken on his town has been “absolutely devastating” to their economy.
Brian Calder says he supports a push by Washington lawmakers to loosen up border restrictions for Canadians with property in his community or people who can prove they live there.
Four members of U.S. Congress have written to the U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Richard Mills, asking him to work with the Trudeau government to advocate for a “phased approach” to lifting border restrictions, and to collaborate with Ottawa to “address the unique concerns of Point Roberts.”
“Point Roberts is more dependent on B.C. economically and for it’s employment and so forth than it is on Washington state,” Calder says.
The 79-year-old is a former Vancouver city councillor who spent summers in Point Roberts because his grandmother — on his father’s side — was one of the first people to live there in the 1890s. Calder — who has dual citizenship — says he’s been living in Point Roberts for about 30 years, since 1990.
According to Calder, the town’s population is about 1,200 but that more than triples during the summer months, but the virus has impacted that trend.
“I’m scared there’s not going to be a recovery. I think we’re closed until the first of the year. If you can demonstrate that you are a Canadian owning property in Point Roberts and want to come and access it, you should be allowed to come down and look at your asset as well. Most of the other people actually are trapped.”
"Point Roberts is almost the orphan of BC –not the orphan of Washington state. It's got stronger connections to BC economically." So says former #Vancouver city councillor Brian Calder about border closure impact on his new hometown during #COVID19 #cdnpoli #bcpoli @NEWS1130 pic.twitter.com/cmfVO8lelx
— Marcella Bernardo (@Bernardo1130) August 12, 2020
While the State of Washington has recorded over 64,000 cases as of Tuesday, and as far as Calder knows, no one in his town has tested positive for COVID-19.
And given its geography and lack of confirmed COVID cases, Carleton adds, Point Roberts residents should be viewed by Ottawa and Washington as more in line with Canada.
“We get our power from B.C. We get our water from B.C. Point Roberts is almost the orphan of B.C. Not the orphan of Washington state. It’s got stronger connections to B.C. economically.”
But Calder says he does not believe the U.S. or Canadian government will address the concerns.
“I just don’t see this U.S. government or even the Canadian one making an exception for Point Roberts alone,” he says.
“I don’t think politically they’ll touch it, because they’re afraid it’ll set some kind of a precedent. I’m sure, and they’ll say no.”
Post-pandemic, Calder explains Canadians crossing the border already had issues with border patrol.
“A lot of people who historically have come here third and fourth generations, say well ‘I always come here and they go, ‘this is an international border we don’t care if you’ve come here forever. You’re a Canadian citizen not a U.S. you’ll answer the questions and you’ll do as you’re told,'” he explains.
“So, that was causing some stress, even before the shutdown. And of course, the shutdown has just been devastating and the jobs here are so dependent on Canadians — British Columbia primarily.”
Usually, British Columbians visit during the spring, summer and early fall months and Calder says people in Point Roberts tend to hold on through the winter “because they’re not making money,” waiting for Canadians to come and holiday.whatcom_border_letter_final_w._sig
Lawmakers have urged Mills to collaborate with the Canadian government on a solution that addresses public health and access concerns. U.S. travellers can safely travel between Point Roberts and the mainland since they can cross through both the Boundary Bay and Peace Arch border crossings without having to exit their vehicles, they wrote.
Point Roberts residents could produce driver’s licenses or other documents proving residency to CBSA to allow them to cross, they added.
The current agreement between the U.S. and Canada has the border closed to non-essential travel until at least August 21st.