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Point Roberts businesses still in limbo as some border restrictions set to ease

"Instead of helping them build back better, we’re putting our border communities at a significant disadvantage.”
Border protest
A recent protest was held on the Canada/US Boundary Bay border as residents and business owners from Point Roberts joined residents from Canada.

Point Roberts and its business community continue to push Canadian and American government officials to reopen the border.

Local Chamber of Commerce president Brian Calder said news earlier this week that Canada will reopen its border to fully-vaccinated Americans on Aug. 9 was better news than expected, but this is by no means is an end to the community’s ongoing problems.

“The drama just never ends for us,” said Calder. “We were willing to find the silver lining in the Aug. 9 re-opening date – finally our residents will be able to visit their doctors in Canada and reunite with family members north of the border. But until our own government reciprocates and allows Canadians to cross the border into the U.S, our community cannot recover from the severe economic collapse we have been in for months. 

“Canadians are the only lifeline that can help the few remaining businesses struggling to survive here. The U.S. must open its border immediately!  Until that happens, only Canada will reap the economic benefits resulting from Mr. Trudeau’s announcement, and we will watch the last of our businesses close up and move on.”

Border restrictions imposed in March 2020 during the start of the pandemic left the community cut off from both countries. Cut off from both the United States and Canada for 16 months has devastated the community, said Calder, adding that both the American and Canadian borders at the Boundary Bay/Point Roberts border crossing need to be reopened for the community to survive, and every day the U.S. delays reopening results in further economic devastation.

After an announcement in late June that the only grocery store in Point Roberts would close its doors on July 15, after recording losses in excess of $300,000 over 15 months, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee visited to the community and announced a funding contribution of $100,000 to ensure the community’s residents uninterrupted access to food.  

“When Governor Inslee visited Point Roberts on July 9, he was finally fully able to understand just what a dire situation we are in, but he can't move the needle on his own,” said Ali Hayton, owner of the International Marketplace. “There are 12 other border-state governors who need to join in his plea to open the border, and President Biden needs to listen.”

Washington State Congresswoman Suzan DelBene has been lobbying on Point Roberts’ behalf for months.

“I am deeply disappointed in the Biden administration’s decision to unilaterally extend the Canada-U.S. border closure another month,” said DelBene in a statement. “This action is short-sighted and devastating to our border communities. Businesses and families in Whatcom County, particularly in Point Roberts, were praying this was the month the border would reopen. Continuing the border closure all but ensures more businesses will close and more livelihoods will be destroyed along the border.

“Right now, Canadians can fly from Vancouver to Seattle but residents in the border town of White Rock cannot drive the short distance south across the border to Blaine. Instead of helping them build back better, we’re putting our border communities at a significant disadvantage.”

Delta Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Garry Shearer added that the relationship between Delta and Point Roberts, is a unique and mutually beneficial one.

“Many Canadians own properties and pay taxes in Point Roberts. They consider it their second home,” he said. “They invest in the community, support the small businesses, and care about the well-being of permanent residents there. The same is true of the Americans living in Point Roberts who come to Delta to visit family and friends, access shops and services, and travel to other parts of the continental United States.

“Keeping the U.S. border closed to fully-vaccinated Canadians only continues to further the economic devastation for the small businesses in Point Roberts and negatively impact residents on both sides.”