New Brunswick

Orange alert on the Pedersen farm

Marion and Nickolaj Pedersen live in New Brunswick, but they can't get to the rest of Canada, or even pick up their newspaper, without illegally crossing an international border.

Marion and Nickolaj Pedersen live in New Brunswick, but they can't get to the rest of Canada, or even pick up their newspaper, without illegally crossing an international border.

Now that the American government has adopted an "orange alert" security status – just crossing the road has become a hassle for the Pedersens.

They've lived on their Perth-Andover area potato farm 53 years. The property skims the international border with their driveway in Canada, and the road, centimetres away, in the United States.

Brown Road has always been a bit of a local curiousity because it twists back and forth across the international boundary. There is no customs office and barely anyone to see when travellers cross from Canadian pavement to American pavement.

The Pedersens are the only couple living on Canadian soil on this American road and they now find themselves lumped in with potential terrorists, drug smugglers and Quebec hunter Michel Jalbert, who went to jail for crossing the border to buy cheap gas with a rifle in his vehicle.

An American customs agent even threatened to arrest Marion Pedersen for illegal border-jumping on Jan. 31, 2003.

"It was out here when they stopped me," Marion says. " And he said `I'm going to take you in.' 'In where?' I said. And boy he meant it. He wasn't fooling. And I said, `Well what's wrong?' He said `You jumped the border.' And I said `Well, maybe yes, maybe no, but if I have, I've done it for 53 years.'"

Marion escaped prosecution, and eventually got special dispensation for herself and her husband Nickolaj to cross the street without getting into trouble with the law. But there's no such permission for anyone else who might come to the farm, not even her eight children who like to visit, or delivery or service people.

"He said `Mrs. Pedersen, you're alright, but you're not allowed to have anybody else here. No family.' I said `What about family?' `No. No friends.' `I said what happens tonight if say the water stops? And I have to call a plumber?' `Nope, not unless them come around by Andover and report.' I said, `Well, how can they get back in here? This is Canada.' Well that was going to be the way.'"

Tenant detained and searched

The mailman is still getting through, but the paper carrier is not. Marion has to pick up her newspaper from a neighbour down the road and around the corner in Canada. The Pedersens own an apartment in Perth-Andover and when their tenant came to the farm to pay the rent, she was stopped, detained and searched.

Marion has spoken to a number of Canadian politicians but they don't seem to have much clout in Washington these days. She's now hoping Ottawa will consider another solution and it's one that she really didn't want to have to think about: "for me I would like to see them buy us out. I want out. It's ruined my life here. At the state of mind I'm in now, I would be happy. Before that I didn't want to leave. It was my home. It'll be difficult. Yeah. But you have to do what you have to do, because you have to go on living."

When visitors leave Marion's house and head back to the Trans-Canada Highway, they cross into the U.S. illegally at the top of her driveway and then back into Canada illegally down the road.

Canada Customs is aware of the Pedersens' "geographical difficulties," but has adopted a more relaxed approach.

"Well, technically they are reentering Canada illegally if you want to take a broad view of the law," explains John Dolimount, regional director of Canada Customs in Woodstock. "But the fact that we're aware of it and the RCMP are aware of it, we recognize it is a unique situation and we'll be flexible and creative with our arrangements with those people. We haven't prohibited anyone from going to the Pedersen's farm."

Dolimount is in Ottawa this week for meetings and he's going to talk to his bosses about the Pedersen's house.

Canada Customs is considering a special "ministerial exemption" for people who have to go to the Pedersen's like the mailman and the newspaper carrier. Of course, Dolimount says that document will be worthless once those people hit American pavement: "A ministerial exemption won't do anything from a United States Customs point of view. It's wholly a Canadian exemption. You know, what U.S. Customs or U.S. border patrol, what they do or don't do is something I can't comment on."

CBC requested an interview with American Customs, but they didn't return our calls.

  • From March 17, 2003: 'War on terror' hits rural paradise
    From March 19, 2003: Operation liberty tightens borders