Cooperation-inspiring travel restrictions in border communities

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When the COVID-19 pandemic closed the Canada-U.S. Border to non-essential travel, Donna Peter suddenly lost access to her nearest bulk grocery source.

Peter is one of over 100 residents of Beaver Creek, Yukon who reportedly drive two hours to Tok, Alaska for much of their basic shopping.

“They have a grocery store there, a restaurant, a hardware store, a lumber yard. So it’s very convenient for us, ”she says.

“Usually this was our place to get away from it all. Being at the border, where are you going to go? You go to Tok.

Beaver Creek holds the title of Canada’s most westerly community and – just 20 minutes from the border – it generally serves as a friendly stop for travelers looking to take a break along the Alaska Highway. .

Like other border towns forced to respond to a rapidly changing world, residents have come together with generosity and cooperation.

At the onset of the pandemic, the local White River First Nation offered to buy groceries for the entire city, whether or not an individual is a member of the First Nation, Peter said.

In coordination with the Beaver Creek Community Club, they planned a five-hour trip to Whitehorse and collected shopping lists from residents, banning only cigarettes and alcohol, she said.

“They went to Whitehorse, they went there, they wore masks and loaded truck after truck after truck with groceries. And they got them back, took them all to the community club, sorted them by name and then delivered them to your house, ”says Peter.

“We, of course, the people of the city, thanked them profusely. ”

No one from the First Nation was available for an interview, but Executive Director Sid Vander Meer said in an email that members have now gone through six or seven procurement cycles.

As a pit stop for many tourists, businesses in Beaver Creek are also suffering during the pandemic.

Carmen Hinson, owner and operator of Buckshot Betty’s full-service outage, said her business was down 90 to 95 percent.

“We have a restaurant, a take out liquor gift shop, cabins, a campground, a little bit of everything,” she says.

“For us on the highway, I mean it affects us a lot. ”

The town of Stewart, British Columbia, is also doing what it can to help the smaller and more isolated Hyder neighbors in Alaska.

Stewart Mayor Gina McKay said residents of Hyder don’t even have a gas station and are allowed to come to Stewart once a week for essentials like groceries.

“We really see ourselves as one great community and I think that in fact this situation we find ourselves in right now with COVID has made us stronger because we are doing all we can to help them, whether it is to bring fuel to the border, groceries to the border, all the essentials they need, ”McKay said.

After McKay made similar comments at the start of the pandemic, she said she received media calls from as far away as Abu Dhabi seeking good news, as gloom swept the world .

“I don’t think when I made these comments in March, any of us thought we would still be there by the end of July,” McKay said.

Since then, she said residents on both sides of the border have formed a Stewart-Hyder COVID Action Committee asking the two countries to allow residents to move freely between the two communities.

McKay said his council passed a motion this week to support the petition and ask the Canada Border Services Agency and their local MP to make an exception for Hyder.

The CBSA did not respond to questions on time.

McKay said kindness goes both ways. She and her partner were “devastated” to lose their dog in March. They quickly ordered a puppy from a breeder outside of Seattle who wouldn’t be ready until June, not realizing the borders were going to close.

The Chow Chow, named Harper, made it thanks to an American breeder who put her on a seaplane charter flight, a pilot who babysat her for three days due to bad weather, and a man in Hyder who took her brought her from the wharf to the border. .

“So it is we who all work together. It took a long time to bring this puppy here, but we got it, ”McKay said.

This report from The Canadian Press was published on August 3, 2020.

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