Hundreds demonstrate against Campbellton-Quebec border rules
Pointe-à-la-Croix and Listuguj residents rely on shops in Campbellton for essential supplies
Hundreds of people separated by the New Brunswick-Quebec border marched against New Brunswick's travel restrictions Monday.
Organizers are calling for a bubble to be formed between Campbellton and the closest Quebec communities of Pointe-à-la-Croix and Listuguj First Nation, to allow for essential travel and family reunification.
More than 400 residents of Campbellton, Listuguj and Pointe-à-la-Croix met at the bridge linking the two provinces, wearing masks, carrying signs and calling for the border rules to be applied more consistently.
"We are one community, it's been like that for a hundred years," said organizer Lisa Lévesque.
Lévesque lives in Pointe-à-la-Croix but works in Campbellton as a mental health worker. Her commute is five minutes long, and she has a pass so she can cross the border easily. She said that system works well when she wants to get to work, but to get to the store, or to see her 22-year-old daughter, it hasn't been as easy.
"There's a lot of inconsistency at the border," she said.
New Brunswick's emergency declaration bans all non-essential travel into the province to protect the province from COVID-19 spread . But Pointe-à-la-Croix and Listuguj residents are included as an exception in the order, allowing them to enter Campbellton to access essential goods like groceries and pharmacy.
It has been almost two weeks since New Brunswick has detected a new case of COVID-19. The last two detected were both linked to travel.
Everyone travelling into the province is required to self isolate for two weeks, and the province has been turning away travellers deemed to be making non-essential trips.
Lévesque said that rule is fine if it's applied fairly across the board. She said some residents get turned away by one officer, and allowed by the next one even though their reason for travel hasn't changed.
"We only have the Provigo, the one pharmacy, for about 5,000 people, and if we want more stuff we need to drive like an hour," she said.
The town also doesn't have a bank. Levesque said having a very limited bubble for the local communities will help her area.
"We don't want to open the border to all of Quebec," she said.
How many people has the province turned away?
Department of Public Safety spokesperson Coreen Enos said hundreds of people are being granted access every day at the crossings into Restigouche County.
She said over the last seven days, an average of 509 vehicles per day attempted to cross into Campbellton. Officers turned back an average of 18 each day.
"When residents of Quebec enter New Brunswick, they are asked to explain the purpose of their travels, if travel is deemed essential in nature, those residents are permitted to enter New Brunswick for that purpose only and are expected to return to the province of Quebec immediately upon completing that essential task," she said.
Premier Blaine Higgs did not return a request for comment.
Family bubble doesn't apply
Lévesque said she hasn't seen her daughter since the travel restrictions came into effect. She said if she lived in Campbellton, she would have chosen her daughter as her "bubble" household. But, she said because of the travel restrictions, that has not been possible.
"A lot of us have family there," she said. "We cannot see our family."
Pointe-à-la-Croix Mayor Pascal Bujold marched Monday. He said his mother lives in Dalhousie and he hasn't seen her in two months either.
"I know exactly what they're going through," he said.
Bujold has previously criticized border officers' inconsistent rule application. He said he has contacted Higgs to explain the situation to him, but has not gotten a call back.
"He knows what we want, so I'd like to know what he thinks about it," he said.
The peaceful march happened under police supervision.
The majority of participants wore masks, but the two metre physical distance rule was difficult to enforce, Lévesque said, especially when the two groups met in the middle of the bridge.
"Impossible to do distancing with a lot of people like that," she said. "We did the walk and came back home right after."
The organizer for the New Brunswick marchers, Marie-Josette Roy, said no matter where they came from, the message was the same for everyone.
"Pointe-à-la-Croix and Listuguj have always been part of our community," she told Radio-Canada on Monday.
Campbellton Mayor Stephanie Anglehart-Paulin declined to comment on the march Tuesday.
With files from Serge Bouchard