They are small towns along the Canadian-American border, cut by geography, and their residents’ lives have already been upended by the border closures due to the coronavirus pandemic.
But as winter approaches, residents of Campobello Island in the Canadian Atlantic province of New Brunswick and the small US town of Point Roberts in Washington state are preparing for continued isolation that adds to the winter gloom, revealing just how interconnected the communities that straddle international borders are.
Campobello, located off the coast of the US state of Maine, can only be accessed by private ferry service operating during the summer or by driving through Maine, which connects to the island via a bridge.
Justin Tinker, 34, a civil engineer whose family has lived on the island of Campobello for 10 generations, said the lack of easy access to the rest of Canada has been a long-standing problem, but exacerbated by the pandemic.
Tinker said islanders have to pass through the United States to go to a hospital on the Canadian mainland, but that they may now end up being pushed out of the hospital because they’ve been to the United States within the past two weeks.
“The Campobello always meets when he needs to, but there is concern,” said Tinker, who blames the county for failing to find a solution. “Once this ferry stops operating, we cannot reach Campobello Island within our province.”
Across the continent, the town of Point Roberts, which has a population of about 1,300 year-round in the state of Washington, is located on the tip of the Canadian Peninsula of Taswasin. Its proximity to Canada has made the local economy dependent on Canadian visitors, but it also means that locals depend on open borders to access healthcare and other facilities.
We have five gas stations. “We don’t have five gas stations for a thousand people,” said Christopher Carleton, Chief Fire Officer at Point Roberts, explaining the reliance on Canadians, who cross the border to buy about a third of cheaper gas.
Carleton has been sounding the alarm about an impending mental health crisis among Point Roberts residents as their isolation is likely to continue into winter. His efforts bring more attention to the plight of Point Roberts residents, although the pressure on state and federal politicians has yet to bear fruit.
Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee wrote to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in August, asking him to address the “unique hardships” faced by the residents of Point Roberts.
The border between the United States and Canada is closed for non-essential travel until September 21.
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