Governor visits town isolated by US-Canada border closure

POINT ROBERTS, Wash. — Washington state’s governor traveled to the exclave of Point Roberts on Friday to visit residents who have been voicing concern for months about the border closure between the U.S. and Canada that has essentially cut them off from both countries.

Point Roberts is on the tip of a peninsula south of Vancouver, British Columbia, that juts into U.S. territory. It’s part of Washington, but separated from the rest of the state.

Gov. Jay Inslee was greeted Friday by a few dozen residents at the town’s library, some of whom suggested that Inslee push the White House to allow for an exemption to the closure, or approval for Canadians to return to the point, KING-5 reported.

“There is no reason not to allow vaccinated Canadians to come here from the north,” Inslee said.

Before the pandemic, residents frequently traveled into Canada to shop, work or drive the 25 miles (40 km) through southern British Columbia to reach the U.S. mainland. And Canadian shoppers and tourists are a big source of revenue for Point Roberts’ businesses.

In March 2020, the northern border was closed to nonessential crossings in both directions to control the spread of the coronavirus.

Community leaders say there is no reason to restrict their border crossing anymore because most everyone living on the five-square-mile peninsula is fully vaccinated. Point Roberts Fire Chief Christopher Carleton reiterated Friday that he has helped to vaccinate 85% of the more than 1,000 residents.

International Marketplace owner Ali Hayton thanked Inslee for the recent $100,000 emergency grant to keep her business, the town’s only grocery store, afloat. The supermarket depends on Canadian visitors and second-home owners to make a profit, and those shoppers have been unable to come over for more than a year.

Inslee told the group that he believed the problem with reopening involved people from the “north side of the border,” and that he’s open minded about allowing vaccinated Canadians to return to their homes and businesses.

“Our infection rate, vaccination rates are close enough now, that there is not a huge enough difference,” he said of both counties. “We’re in the same boat right now.”

Washington Congresswoman Suzan DelBene, D-Medina, said she has asked every resident to get the names and badge numbers of agents who have restricted even essential travel, so that she can present them to Canadian officials for evidence of the unique circumstances.

“We should be able to do something for the folks to come across the border,” she said.

Both Inslee and DelBene have written letters to U.S. and Canadian security officials urging a border reopening.

The joint international ban on non-essential travel at the U.S.-Canadian border remains in effect through July 21.