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Point Roberts business leader says not enough Canadians know about special border exemption

Since late November, the U.S. pene-exclave has been recognized as a remote border community by Canada’s Order in Council
Boundary Bay crossing
A special exemption for Canadians visiting Point Roberts has been in place since late November

The business community of Point Roberts wants more Canadians to know how its border rules are different than the rest of the 49th parallel U.S. crossings in B.C.

Since late November, the U.S. pene-exclave has been recognized as a remote border community by Canada’s Order in Council where fully-vaccinated Canadians can visit for any length of time (essential or non-essential) and are not required to present a pre-entry negative PCR COVID test when returning home or go into quarantine. Only three other Canadian border crossings have been given such status.

Fully-vaccinated British Columbians have also been exempt from pre-entry COVID tests at other Washington State crossings back into Canada, but for essential purchases only, such as groceries and gas, and the trips have to be 24 hours or less. This exemption was announced in late December as the province dealt with supply issues caused by flood damage. It expires at 9 p.m. (PST) on Monday (Jan. 31).

It’s these different exemptions that are causing some confusing and need to be better clarified according to Point Roberts Chamber of Commerce president Brian Calder.

“I believe that very few Canadians know, or even believe, that Point Roberts is the only community in Washington State that they can visit without having to provide proof of a COVID-19 test before returning to Canada,” said Calder. “It’s quicker, easier and safer to visit Point Roberts than any other American community.”

Calder is hoping to see cross-border business return closer to the pre-pandemic levels after nearly two years of suffering without Canadian customers.

“Given our geographic proximity to Canada and our physical isolation from the rest of the U.S., our social and economic ties are aligned more with Canada than the U.S.,” he added. “Prior to the start of the pandemic, Point Roberts was southern B.C.’s playground. Canadians own 75 percent of Point Roberts properties, and 50 percent of our residents have dual U.S./Canadian citizenship. Canada supplies Point Roberts with potable water, electricity and other critical services. Without Canada, our town would not survive.”

There has even been some confusion at the Boundary Bay crossing where an Optimist reader reached out over the weekend to say her seven-year-old son was told by a Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer he would need to quarantine despite being vaccinated. 

The quick trip was to pick-up parcels and purchase gas. When the special Point Roberts exemption was brought to the CBSA’s attention the following day, the supervisor at the Boundary Bay crossing admitted the officer had made a mistake.

“(CBSA) is unable to provide comment on specific cases and we cannot speculate on certain outcomes, as each traveller presents themselves to a border services officer under a different set of circumstances, with varying levels of information available,” said CBSA spokesperson Rebecca Purdy. “What I can tell you is that all travellers seeking entry to Canada are subject to strict screening measures by CBSA border services officers (BSOs) to ensure travellers are eligible to enter the country and understand their public health obligations. At the time of entry, the border services officer will review and consider each traveller's unique circumstances, the purpose of the trip, and the documents presented to determine if the traveller is eligible to enter the country and which set of public health instructions apply to the traveller.”

Purdy added all travellers into Canada are required to use ArriveCan app regardless of length of trip. They may also be randomly selected to do a COVID-19 test at home.