Point Roberts is not being overlooked or forgotten.
That’s what Delta’s MP wants her constituents to know since the border to the small peninsula community was not included in recent loosened quarantine restrictions for isolated Canada-U.S. border towns.
The border has been closed for non-essential travel since March 21, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m really sensitive and value the relationship we have with Point Roberts. We are more than neighbours. Our communities are interwoven. I’m very aware of the dynamics at play here. Whether it is Point Roberts’ people coming to our side to work, shop or worship, or Canadians that live there, but basically live their daily lives here,” said Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion. “Constituents have really reached out to me. I share their longer term concerns about the impact this is going to have on Point Roberts as a community. That’s why we are doing so much. That’s why we are monitoring it so closely. That’s why all have been so engaged as we know what’s going on and we know what’s at stake. Everyone has their eyes on this and we are working really hard.”
The Point Roberts’ situation is being reviewed on an on-going basis by all levels of government with Ottawa’s monthly decision being mainly steered by provincial health authorities, she said.
“I’m in regular contact with our ministers of public safety and health, with the province,” continued Qualtrough. “The Prime Minster has talked to the Premier about Point Roberts. Our Canadian ambassador to the US has been involved. The Governor of Washington State has been involved and of course Mayor Harvie and our local MLAs too. Literally it has been all hands on deck effort.
“We make decisions on the border based on Canadians’ health and safety. Secondly, having the support of the province and their public health authorities has really been essential. They are the experts in their region.”
That was echoed by provincial health minister Adrian Dix during an interview on Radio NL News in Kamloops last week when he was asked about the Point Roberts border.
“It is really a challenging situation because of course as you know it’s my strong view we can’t have visitor traffic back and forth from the United States right now and that continues to be my view,” said Dix. “I know the federal government and the MP for Delta is a cabinet minister are obviously interested but it’s very difficult to create exceptions to rules at borders. If you are going to have laws and agreements they tend to apply generally.”
It was through consolidation with the provincial government quarantine restrictions were loosened for the border between Stewart, BC and Hyder, Alaska. Both are isolated communities, not near a major population centre like Point Roberts.
“There is no place to go there if you know those communities,” continued Dix. “I think it’s unlikely in the short term we are going to see a lot of changes at Point Roberts. I know the federal government has looked at it but this is the consequence of having border measures unfortunately.”
Qualtrough added there have been some easing of the quarantine rules since March for the Point including medical travel, education and custody arrangements, yet, the pandemic’s second wave, which has resulted in record high daily numbers in B.C., means nothing is coming soon for the Canadians that would love to check on their vacation homes.
Point Roberts has not had a single COVID-19 case since March.
Qualtrough speculated a priority system could be in place initially when the border does re-open for car traffic.
“We haven’t staked out the long term ways of how to re-open the border. It’s all too uncertain,” she added. “I think the approach will be different types of travellers. Maybe local travellers at first instead of visitors.
“Absolutely there is a world where Point Roberts is opened before other places partially because of all the things we just talked about and also how it’s landlocked and there are no cases.”