A Northern Canadian Town Wants to Bubble With Part of Alaska

Stewart, B.C., and Hyder, Alaska, basically form "one community," Stewart's mayor said. The U.S.-Canada border closure is making life difficult for residents.
August 5, 2020, 2:21pm
Hyder, Alaska
Residents of Hyder, Alaska rely on Stewart, B.C. for essential goods. Photo by Tjipke de Vries (Wikipedia),

While most Canadians want the U.S.-Canadian border to stay firmly shut for the foreseeable future, one town in northern British Columbia is hoping it will get permission to form a pandemic bubble with its Alaskan neighbour.

Stewart, B.C., a 400-person border town sitting just east of Alaska’s panhandle, wants to bubble with Hyder, Alaska, which is home to about 80 people, according to CBC News. Stewart acts as a service hub providing essential goods like food and fuel to the people living in Hyder, which isn’t connected to the rest of Alaska by road.

According to Stewart’s mayor, Gina McKay, the ongoing U.S.-Canada border closure, which came into effect on March 21, has hit the small Alaskan community hard.

Businesses in Stewart voiced support for Hyder early on, with several offering to deliver goods right to the border, McKay told CBC in March.

“While we are technically two countries and two communities, we really are one,” McKay said.

Now, the communities are asking the U.S. and Canadian governments to exempt them from the border closure, which has no end in sight. 

Neither community has reported any cases of COVID-19, so they’re hoping the region will be designated an “integrated trans-border community,” the Globe and Mail reported. That would allow residents to cross the border freely and avoid the two-week quarantine period that is mandatory for all people entering Canada.

A spokesperson for the Canadian Border Services Agency told the Globe that asymptomatic people who cross the border for reasons essential to day-to-day life—travelling to purchase medication and groceries, for example—are permitted to enter Canada, but did not comment on Stewart’s bubble bid. The Ministry of Public Safety told the newspapers that decisions to close Canada’s border “weren’t taken lightly.”

B.C.’s top doctor, Dr. Bonnie Henry, voiced support for the cross-border bubble, but said it’s ultimately up to the federal government to decide how to proceed, according to news reports.

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