New Brunswick

Self-isolating Quebecer warns visitors to avoid New Brunswick after confrontation on beach

Sarah Sweet-Fortin said on her second day in Beresford she was harassed by an unknown neighbour who aggressively yelled at her to go back to her home city. She was planning on staying two weeks but left after only nine days.

'Scary' incident occurred while visiting mother in Beresford

Sarah Sweet-Fortin said she recommends other Quebecers avoid New Brunswick for the near future after facing threats in Beresford. (Submitted by Sarah Sweet-Fortin)

A Quebec woman who visited her mother in New Brunswick says she was threatened and is now warning others from her province to stay away.

Sarah Sweet-Fortin said that on her second day in Beresford she was harassed by an unknown neighbour who aggressively yelled at her to go back to her home city.

The Sherbrooke, Que., resident said the incident occurred while she walked with her mother, dog and son on an empty stretch of beach at night on June 27. 

An unknown neighbour at a distant property, at least 50 feet (15 metres) away, began yelling from his yard. 

"He was like 'You should go return into Quebec, you're not welcome here. Don't you dare come near my property,'" she said.

Sarah Sweet-Fortin said she was threatened while walking on this beach in Beresford on the evening of June 27. (Submitted by Sarah Sweet-Fortin)

After the incident, the 36-year-old said, she felt uncomfortable on the walk home.

"He was very threatening in the way he was talking and I was scared with my son," she said. 

"I was scared of him, I didn't like the situation at all. I didn't feel welcome and I didn't feel at my place there."

Half an hour after the walk, police arrived at her house and said they received a complaint about her walking on the beach.

"The policeman seemed embarrassed about the situation," she said. "He was saying 'this is all new to everybody.'"

Sweet-Fortin said the officer told her he would make calls to Public Health to learn more.  

Confusion on isolation rules

New Brunswick loosened its restrictions on June 19 to allow Canadians who have immediate family or own property in the province to enter, provided they self-isolate for 14 days.

When crossing the provincial border, Sweet-Fortin said she was told by officials she would be allowed to walk her dog on the road if she didn't come into contact with other people.

The officer who stopped at her cottage called to say the information she was given at the border was incorrect. She could leave the house but had to stay on her mother's property.

Sweet-Fortin works in health care in Sherbrooke and said she understands the safety measures the government has put in place. But she thinks stopping her from walking her dog on an empty stretch of beach goes too far.

"For me it was beyond nonsense not to be able to walk," she said. "There wasn't a soul on the beach around the road when I went to walk."

Vehicles in New Brunswick are stopped at the Quebec border in Campbellton as an officer asks all motorists a series of questions to screen for COVID-19. (Serge Bouchard/Radio-Canada)

'The rules are there'

Beresford Mayor Jean-Guy Grant said he first heard of the situation when reached by CBC News.

The small community of about 4,200 is near Bathurst on the province's north shore, across Chaleur Bay from Quebec. 

"They are welcome but they have to stay isolated for 14 days," Grant said. "That's the same thing for everybody."

Grant said there are many summer cottages in the community, some owned by Quebecers. 

Beresford Mayor Jean-Guy Grant said Quebecers with cottages and family in his community are welcome if they follow the rules for self-isolation. (CBC)

The mayor said he has heard few concerns about visitors. But he received a call from a concerned resident Monday night who spotted Quebec licence plates at cottages in her neighbourhood and suspected they weren't self-isolating.

He said he has heard people crossing into New Brunswick are being told different rules on the self-isolation requirements.

"The rules are there and people have to follow the rules, and if somebody sees them they can call the cops and the cops will take care of it," Grant said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety did not respond to a question asking what the province is doing to ensure rules are consistent and clearly communicated with travellers. 

Warning Quebecers to stay home

Sweet-Fortin said she has come to the province every year since she was a child, and her mom has owned a cottage in Beresford for more than 20 years. 

"To me it's like my second home, but this year I didn't feel like it was," she said. "It was disappointing."

After the incident, she hid her car in the garage in fear of having people spot her Quebec licence plates and attempt to vandalize her vehicle.

Sweet-Fortin said she was closely following news on the borders, waiting for an opening for family members to allow her to visit her mother.

"I knew there was the fear of the virus — but I did not expect at all to live that kind of situation," she said.

Sarah Sweet-Fortin and her son. She said she feels unwelcome in her 'second home' after they were harassed on the beach in Beresford while visiting from Quebec. (Submitted by Sarah Sweet-Fortin)

She was planning on staying two weeks —  which required her to isolate the entire stay — but left on July 5 after only nine days. 

Even if they open the borders for unrestricted travel, Sweet-Fortin thinks the fear and tension will continue. She recommends other Quebecers avoid New Brunswick for the near future. 

"After what I experienced this summer for sure I would not recommend it at all to any friends right now."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexandre Silberman is a reporter with CBC New Brunswick based in Fredericton. He can be reached at alexandre.silberman@cbc.ca

Comments

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 conversationCreate account

Already have an account?

now