British Columbia

B.C. couple stranded in RV as pandemic restrictions block arrival at their new home in Nova Scotia

A B.C. couple moving to Nova Scotia says they're sitting in limbo after their requests to enter their new home were denied due to COVID-19 restrictions.

'Are we going to be... camping in the bush? We're hostages'

The Bendel family says they can't afford to live in their trailer much longer and need to be able to move into their Nova Scotia home next month. (Robert Bendel)

A B.C. couple moving to Nova Scotia says they're sitting in limbo after their requests to enter their new home were denied due to COVID-19 restrictions.

For Julia Park-Bendel, leaving Victoria, B.C. and heading to the Maritimes is a return to her roots.

"It's been in the works for almost 30 years," she said.

She quit her job. Her husband Robert Bendel retired after 34 years in the Navy. They sold their home on the Island, and the couple, along with their two dogs and a cat, were set to live in their cramped RV from April 26 until June 1.

They were planning a three week journey to their new home in Nova Scotia with the goal of arriving by June 21.

The Bendel's say they planned to live in their trailer from April 26 to June 21 but now they feel they could be stuck all summer long. (Robert Bendel)

But halfway through May and with restrictions in Nova Scotia constantly changing, they say they're no longer sure when they'll be able to leave their crowded RV and enter their new home.

"I think we've spent ... over $2,000 staying in trailer parks so far and we budgeted for that. But we didn't budget for staying another month, two, three ... we didn't budget for having to spend an indefinite period of time in our trailer," Park-Bendel said.

But it's an indefinite period of time they're looking at right now. 

On Friday, a new travel application process for people trying to enter Nova Scotia came into effect.

"There's a potential for no end in sight," Park-Bendel said.

No entry 

The application process is required for anyone entering the province. No one can until it's reviewed and approved.

"We are currently not allowing most people to move to Nova Scotia. The restriction will be in place until at least the end of May," was the emailed message from Nova Scotia's provincial exemptions team when the Bendels asked about their status.

Premier Iain Rankin and Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Robert Strang hold a COVID-19 briefing on April 29, 2021. (Communications Nova Scotia)

The email went on to say the province is considering exceptions for people who have a closing date on or before May 20. The Bendels closing date is May 31.

 "Given that your closing date is beyond the date noted above, we are unable to offer an exception at this time," the email read.

What now?

On Friday, Nova Scotia Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Robert Strang said people in the Bendels' situation should not apply right now.

"We're not sure where we're going to end up in terms of what types of measures we're going to need to have when we get into the last week of May. We're asking people to hold off. We don't want to flood our exemptions process," he said.

Park-Bendel says it doesn't seem fair.

"They've changed their mind three times. I know it's a moving target, but, eventually, those of us who have bought property, we want an end date and a guarantee like, 'OK if you come, we will let you in,'" she said.

On Friday, Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin said while people are appealing to him, he's not involved in granting exemptions.

"Strict border control is an imperative piece to make sure we're not bringing in anymore cases while we're trying to control the cases we have now," Rankin said.

The Bendels say they're worried about how long they'll have to live in a cramped RV with money running out. (Robert Bendel)

But for Park-Bendel and her RV filled with family and the remaining possessions that haven't already been shipped to Nova Scotia, she says they may just have to risk it and head to the border anyway.

"Are we going to be allowed in on the 21st? Are we going to be turned away and be camping in the bush for one month, two months, three months? What are they going to say? Until there's no cases, you're not coming in? We're hostages."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Zahra Premji

Host/Reporter

Zahra Premji is a host/reporter for CBC News Vancouver. She has worked as a host for CBC Alberta News in Edmonton, and a reporter in B.C. and Manitoba on various stories from racism to health and crime to asylum seekers and immigration. You can reach her at zahra.premji@cbc.ca

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