British Columbia

Residents of isolated U.S. border communities confused as travel restrictions lift

As of Monday, fully vaccinated Americans are able to enter Canada and skip quarantine. But residents of Point Roberts, Wash., and two other U.S. towns will be allowed to enter Canada regardless of their vaccinated status. 

Residents of some U.S. border towns do not have to be fully vaccinated to travel for essential purposes

The communities of Point Roberts, Wash., seen in the background, and Tsawwassen, B.C., in the foreground, are so tightly knit that in normal times residents routinely cross for errands. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

As Canada reopens its border to U.S. travellers, some residents of isolated American border towns say the rules for them are unclear. 

As of Monday, fully vaccinated Americans are able to enter Canada and even skip quarantine. But residents of Point Roberts, Wash., Hyder, Alaska, and the Northwest Angle in Minnesota will be allowed to enter Canada regardless of their vaccinated status. 

All three communities are cut off from the rest of the U.S. because of the placement of the border.

For residents like Annelle Norman, who is fully vaccinated and lives in Point Roberts — a nub at the end of the peninsula it shares with Tsawwassen in Metro Vancouver — the pandemic has been devastating. 

"It will feel like getting out of jail," Norman said of the border reopening. 

'Can you visit relatives?'

But Brian Calder, president of the Point Roberts Chamber of Commerce, says he's worried the exemption rules aren't clear enough. 

The Canadian Border Services Agency says residents of Point Roberts may enter Canada regardless of their vaccination status to "carry out everyday functions and access goods and services within their neighbouring Canadian communities."

"Your immediate neighbourhood — Is that Delta? Is that only Ladner and Tsawwassen? Is it North Vancouver? Can you visit relatives?" Calder said. 

The international border has cut this peninsula in half, turning what would otherwise be a suburb of metropolitan Vancouver into a secluded getaway in Washington state separated from the U.S. mainland. (Allison Cake/CBC)

Calder says he wants clarity in part because of the severe impact the border restrictions have had on Point Roberts and its residents. He says the community's population has dropped to about 800 from roughly 1,200 in the past 18 months. Meanwhile, many businesses have closed

"You go on the road, nothing is happening — it's devastation," he said. 

Calder says about 85 per cent of Point Roberts residents are fully vaccinated, which the federal government defines as having received all required doses of a Health Canada-approved COVID-19 vaccine 14 days prior to entering Canada.

He's also wondering when the U.S. government will step in to coordinate its efforts on reopening the border. So far, the U.S. has announced no plans to open its borders to Canadians, whom businesses in Point Roberts rely on. The community's economy has nearly completely crumbled, shrinking by 80 per cent

With files from Joel Ballard


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?