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US Ban on Visits from Canada Creates Economic Losses, Frustration

VANCOUVER, CANADA —

The continued closure of the U.S. side of the land border with Canada to non-essential travel is having an impact in both countries. That includes more than just communities along the international boundary.

The closure of the American land border with Canada and Mexico is to last until at least October 21. The Biden administration quietly announced the extension without stating a specific reason, continuing the closure, which started as a result of the coronavirus pandemic in March of 2020.

Canadians have always been able to fly into the U.S. for non-essential reasons. Canada has allowed fully vaccinated American residents to enter by land or air for any reason since August 9.

Point Roberts, Washington, is a 12.65 square kilometer American exclave surrounded on three sides by water and attached on the north to the Vancouver suburb of Delta in Canada.

The closure is devastating for businesses in Point Roberts since Canadians – who own three quarters of the properties in the enclave – cannot cross the border to reach them. But Americans in the enclave are finally free to travel north to Vancouver, where they can enjoy the shopping variety offered by a large city.

For Ali Hayton, owner of the International Marketplace, the community’s only grocery store, this has exacerbated the revenue loss.

“So it took absolutely bottom of the barrel numbers and cut them by another 30%. For us, because every person there has been blocked there (in Point Roberts) for 18 months, I don't begrudge them at all for wanting to go shop,” said Hayton.

Thirty-year resident Brian Calder is president of the Point Roberts Chamber of Commerce. He feels the extended closure is only being driven by America’s Department of Homeland Security, not by facts.

“It's insane. It's not based on science. If we followed the science, we'd be allowing Delta people to come in here to their properties and us to go in there," Calder said. "Canada has allowed us now to go into Delta from here, great, but further took business away from our stores here.”

Each fall, Florida, Arizona, and California see thousands of Canadians, called “snowbirds," drive south to take up temporary residence during the cold Canadian winter.

A study by the Canadian Consulate in Miami found that Canadian tourists injected $6.5 billion into the Florida economy in 2017 and own over $53 billion in real estate.

Bob Slack and his wife Lois, retired educators from Athens, Ontario, are snowbirds who have been driving to Winterhaven, Florida for 23 years. Now, they are shipping their car over the border and flying to Florida, at an extra cost of $1,500.

Like many snowbirds, they feel frustrated at having to make a decision about not only if, but how they will travel this year.

“I've talked to a number of people. And everybody's in the same boat," Slack said. "We book a flight, or do we wait and hope October 21 are going to open the border?”

The continued closure has also impacted the Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions and the Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League – teams located near the border that usually have thousands of supporters from Canada attending their games. The Seahawks have told 3,000 Canadian season ticket holders they will credit their accounts as long as they are unable to cross the border.

Source: Voice of America