New Brunswick

Newlyweds separated by Canada-U.S. border closure

Jonelle Prescott, who lives in New Brunswick, has been separated from her husband Harold Prescott, who lives in Maine, since the federal government closed the border between the U.S. and Canada in March.

'Everybody has a bubble home and I don't have one,' said Jonelle Prescott of Bayside, N.B.

Jonelle and Harold Prescott have been married for almost 10 months and have been separated for seven weeks after the Canada and U.S. border closed in March. (Jonelle Prescott/Submitted)

Jonelle and Harold Prescott were supposed to be setting up bird feeders at their family camp in Maine this upcoming weekend. 

Jonelle usually whips up ingredients for the birds, while Harold hangs the bird feeders off the side of the building.

But this year, Harold will be setting up the bird feeders all on his own. 

"I never thought I would never be able to go and see him," Jonelle said. 

"I never thought this would ever happen in a million years."

Jonelle, 53,  lives in Bayside, a rural community just outside St. Stephen, N.B., while Harold, 50, lives in East Machias, a town in Maine about an hour away.

The couple hosted a surprise wedding at their camp in Maine last summer. (Photo: Facebook)

Since they started dating seven years ago and over the course of their 10-month marriage, they have visited one another every Friday to Monday.

"We had each other," Harold said.

But the newlyweds haven't seen each other in seven weeks, since the border between Maine and New Brunswick closed in mid-March.

"The longer it goes on the harder it's getting," said Jonelle.

Separated by COVID-19

In March, Canada and the United States agreed to restrict non-essential travel across the border as both countries attempted to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

At the same time, New Brunswick set up screening checkpoints at provincial borders.  

"It seemed unreal when it happened," Harold said from his car repair shop.

The couple remains hopeful they will be able to reunite by the end of the month. (Photo: Facebook)

The couple met on They held a surprise wedding during an annual pig roast at their camp in Wesley, ME.,last July with 100 of their closest family and friends. 

Jonelle wore a white dress and Harold wore a T-shirt with the image of a tuxedo.

"It's worked out great and he's an amazing guy," she said. 

With respect to travelling across the Canadian and U.S. border, the government of Canada's website said it prohibits any travel for an "optional or discretionary purpose" and is in effect until May 21.

"You hear that rule, but it's how that rule will be interpreted," said Nicole Druckman, an immigration lawyer in Moncton.

She said government regulations are changing so fast, both provincial and federal governments haven't had time to think things through and "fine tune" the various exceptions to the rules.

And she expects border regulations to continue changing over the coming months.  

"We're reacting, not thinking ahead," she said.

New Brunswick has had 119 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick, with 118 recovered cases. The state of Maine has had 1,205 cases confirmed, with 720 people who have recovered.

New Brunswick has kept its borders sealed tight with neighbouring provinces of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Quebec.

Easing restrictions at the border for families 

While she understands why provincial and federal governments closed their borders, she said it's had a huge impact on her life and the lives of others in a similar situation.

"But as far as family, and seeing your husband, I really feel that there should be some kind of restriction released on that."

She's heard that some couples are even meeting on both sides of the border, along with a border patrol officer to supervise.

But Jonelle said she could never do that. 

"For me that's not an option," she said. "That would be more emotional for me to go there, stand there and see him and then to walk away and get in my car and drive away. I just couldn't do it."

Jonelle had plans to move across the border to the U.S. to live with Harold.

She never started the immigration paperwork because she was waiting until her 18-year-old son graduated high school first and her 20-year-old daughter settled into community college.

Now, Jonelle wishes she had started the paperwork sooner. And she's hoping to start the process as soon as the pandemic is over. 

"My heart goes out to anybody going through this right now," Jonelle said. 

'It's the little things' 

The couple text every morning and every night after work. If there's time in the day, they also FaceTime.

During the day, Jonelle tries to distract herself by going for walks up the mountain beside her home. And Harold keeps busy by working in his shop.

The hardest part is at night.

Jonelle said she cried after work one day a few weeks ago. She went home and slept until the next morning.

The couple said they wish the federal government would ease border restrictions for family members to visit one another. (Photo: Facebook)

"Everybody has a bubble home and I don't have one."

When they're together, the couple enjoys outdoor activities like ice fishing, four-wheeling, kayaking and snowmobiling. Harold even convinced Jonelle to get her motorcycle licence. 

"It's the little things, but I guess it makes a relationship stronger," said Jonelle.

But the couple remains hopeful they will be able to reunite at the end of the month, and they can sit on the porch of their camp and watch the birds this summer. 

"I miss my husband," she said. "I really miss my husband."


Elizabeth Fraser


Elizabeth Fraser is a reporter/editor with CBC New Brunswick based in Fredericton. She's originally from Manitoba. Story tip?

With files from Rachel Cave


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