Co-owner of Skagway News denied entry to Canada, blames people who didn't follow rules

Gretchen Wehmhoff says officials turned her back at Beaver Creek, Yukon, because they didn't accept she needed to drive through Yukon to get to Skagway, Alaska.

Gretchen Wehmhoff says officials turned her back at Beaver Creek, Yukon, because she didn't meet their rules

Gretchen Wehmhoff, right, with Skagway News co-owner Melinda Munson, travelling through Yukon in 2018. (Gretchen Wehmhoff)

A co-owner of the Skagway News denied entry to Canada at the Beaver Creek, Yukon, border post says she's frustrated with rule-breakers who have made travel through Canada harder.

Gretchen Wehmhoff and business partner Melinda Munson took over the local newspaper in Skagway, Alaska, in March, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was quickly gaining ground in North America.

Munson stayed in Skagway while Wehmhoff headed back to Anchorage, Alaska, where she lives, with plans to return for the summer.

But those plans were upended when she was turned back from the Yukon border July 22 on her way from Anchorage to Skagway.

Wehmhoff said she thought having documents showing she owned a business in Skagway would be enough to let her drive through the territory.

But after showing her documents and explaining her purpose for travelling to the Canadian border officials, she said they got right to the point.

"Their first question ... was, '[the business] has been doing fine without you so far — why do you need to go now?'" Wehmhoff said.

Wehmhoff was turned back at the Beaver Creek, Yukon, border station. (Google)

Wehmhoff said she explained that she needed to do some training with her co-owner, but that was not sufficient for the officials. She said they weren't satisfied she had to drive through Canada to get to Skagway.

Wehmhoff said the high cost of the car ferry from the Anchorage area to Skagway — about $1,600 U.S. each way, she said — and her desire to bring both her car and her dog with her failed to convince the officials, she said.

Wehmhoff said the officials were nice to her. She says it was frustrating, but she blames Americans who didn't follow the rules when travelling through Canada.

There have been complaints in Canada about a so-called Alaska Loophole that many said allowed Americans to enter Canada without much scrutiny. The Canadian government responded by tightening the rules in July.

"I'm not frustrated with the Canadians. I'm frustrated with people getting into their country and not respecting their rules and the privileges they're granting, by letting people go through," Wehmhoff said.

Wehmhoff was warned when she was turned back not to attempt to cross the border again without a good reason, she said. But she said it's hard to clear a crossing ahead of time because the Beaver Creek border post does not accept telephone calls from the public.

Wehmhoff said if she was a permanent resident of Skagway, she would have been allowed to travel there.

She wonders how this level of enforcement might affect the many Alaskans who drive south each fall to spend their winter in the lower 48 states.