Pointed question: Should American peninsula become part of Canada?

Could Point Roberts someday become part of Canada?

It’s a question John Lesow, a former resident of the tiny American peninsula immediately south of Tsawwassen, says warrants a discussion.

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A dual citizen, and now retired, Lesow was a full-time resident of the Point for 23 years. He now resides in North Vancouver.

During the past year he has had extensive communications with Whatcom County and is hoping to get a referendum question on the ballot in this November’s general election. The question he would propose: Do you support formal discussions between the United States and Canada regarding the purchase of Point Roberts by the Government of Canada?

“The United States/Canada border crossing is an unnecessary and costly expense that has strangled Point Roberts for years and should be eliminated,” said Lesow. “The purchase of the Point by Canada and conferring the benefits of dual citizenship to the 1,000 Americans in Point Roberts, including access to Canadian public schools and health care, would be a practical first step towards a brighter future for Americans living on the Point.”

Lesow said proposals such as this are not without precedent, citing Newfoundland and Labrador joining Canada in 1949. He also said that in 2014, there was a serious proposal introduced in the Canadian Parliament to make the Turks and Caicos Canada's 11th province.

“This is an initiative to undertake discussions between our two governments on this subject. Nothing more at this point,” he said.

Lesow said he’s continuing to work with Whatcom County officials and will be launching a petition shortly to gain support for a referendum question on the ballot.

“That remains to be seen how many signatures I will need,” he said. “That will go before the prosecuting attorney’s office and they will fashion the language, etc. This does not fall under the state-wide advisory initiative, which is good, because if it would fall under the State of Washington it would require over 200,000 signatures.

“The key here is it can’t be shunted aside. It’s time to allow the citizens of Point Roberts and Whatcom County the opportunity to have their voice heard.”

He said so far he hasn’t received any opposition on either side of the border to at least asking the question.

“I think it should be asked. It is an advisory question and if you don’t ask the question, you will never know.”

Long-time Point Roberts resident Armene Belles told the Optimist if there could be some environmental guarantees stating that virtually every healthy tree in Point Roberts would be left in place, thereby ensuring limited development, she could support the idea. 

“Tsawwassen folks love the Point because they can camp there and walk our many public beaches, drive through beautiful woods on the Scenic Loop and get away from suburbia,” she said. “A whole separate zoning and planning strategy would have to be drawn up before a purchase plan is accepted. To get Point Roberts’ voters support, I believe that the Point would have to become pretty much a nature preserve with limited development.”

Mark Robbins from the Point Roberts Taxpayers Association has a much different view, however.

“My view is that it's impractical and not worth discussing, let alone spending money for a non-binding advisory ballot measure,” Robbins said.

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