Confusion over travel requirements for Campobello residents continues

From the Tuesday, Dec. 14 edition of The Saint Croix Courier

CAMPOBELLO ISLAND – Former Saint Croix MLA, Curtis Malloch, is concerned for his fellow islanders and increased travel restrictions close in around Campobello Island.

“We have around 700 people on the island,” said Malloch, “and it’s an aging population.  Many don’t have computers or cell phones. Many aren’t vaccinated,” he added.

Malloch’s concern stems from various points of concern.  Island residents, who once enjoyed several exemptions from the same travel restrictions all other Canadians face, based on the island’s unique geographical challenges.

Malloch said while the island does have places to purchase basic food necessities, residents must go to the U.S., drive through the U.S. and go to St. Stephen, or take the ferry to Deer Island on onto the mainland to enjoy a full service grocery store, or even to get petrol.

“I’ve never been for a year-round ferry,” said Malloch, but said with the challenges that have come with the pandemic, he can see the need for it now.

“The need becomes larger by the day,” he said.

Malloch referenced the recent visit of Transportation Minister, Jill Green to the island, looking at surplus land which is being sold off by the province.  In an interview with the Courier about what was Green’s inaugural trip to the island, she said the current season ferry, which the province has funded above its normal season since 2020, would in fact be ending in December as planned, the province would no longer be footing that bill, and that the island would not be getting a year-round ferry.

Malloch says if the province is going to sell-off land on Campobello, the funds should be put towards a full-time, year-round ferry.

Malloch reiterated without the ferry as a direct link to Canadian soil, with exemptions coming to an end for Campobello residents, and the requirement of registering travel via the ArriveCAN portal, many island residents will effectively become trapped on the island.

N.B. Southwest MP John Williamson said federal Minister of Transportation, Marco Mendicino, has stated Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers can show “flexibility” with those entering Canada and the use (or lackthereof) the ArriveCAN portal, and Canadians would at least be given the opportunity to return to Calais, Maine, or Lubec to utilize local libraries or other facilities to register with the ArriveCAN portal; but what is said in the legislature and what happens on the ground can be different things.

“The message doesn’t always make it down to front-line officers,” said Williamson.

Williamson, who supports the year-round ferry initiative, said he has sympathy for CBSA officers as “too much of the discussion is happening on the floor of the commons,” so officers follow what they know are existing internal protocols for those re-entering Canada.

Williamson said as the ferry is due to stop running this month, he is working hard to see Campobello Island residents allowed to travel from Campobello through Maine to St. Stephen without having to use ArriveCAN.

But even if he is successful, it appears the next hurdle comes with U.S. border service no longer allowing entry into the country if you are not fully vaccinated, even if you are a resident of Campobello Island, “unless the Canadian government secures an exemption,” said Williamson.

“I have joked that the White House hasn’t talked about Campobello Island so much since Roosevelt was president,” laughed Williamson.

Williamson said he’s “disappointed” the province isn’t working with the federal government on a solution to the ferry situation.

He said there are federal funds available, particularly with some funds available for issues created by the pandemic. Williamson said he had the federal government ready to look at formal proposals, but to his knowledge, none have been brought forward.

He said the feds aren’t in the business of entertaining ideas, but would take a hard look at any formal proposals that may be brought forward for a year-round ferry.  “I believe the federal government would help with infrastructure like a new ferry landing, and even a vessel,” said Williamson, “but the province is concerned with year to year running costs.”

Williamson confirmed the Order In Council (OIC) exemption for Campobello Island residents does end at the end of January, and U.S. federal travel restrictions may come into effect before the OIC ends.

Williamson said direction is needed from the CBSA. 

CBSA, for its part, is very clear on where it stand with regulations for all Canadians re-entering the country regardless of their address.

“ArriveCAN continues to be mandatory for everyone entering Canada, including residents of Campobello Island,” CBSA Media Relations, Allan Donovan, told the Courier. “The use of ArriveCAN has been mandatory for travellers, including those in Campobello since November 2020.

“ArriveCAN has been mandatory since February 2021 for travellers arriving at the land border,” he added.

Donovan also made clear unvaccinated Campobello Island residents remain subject to current vaccination policies in play at CBSA. Residents of Campobello who are unvaccinated will continue to have to show a negative PCR test prior to re-entering Canada.

“Unvaccinated travellers are not eligible for the 72 hour PCR exemption regardless of their location.  Unvaccinated Campobello residents must continue to follow the public health measures that are applicable to them,” said Donovan.

“The exemptions for Campobello remain as they are today and are not impacted by the January 15, 2022 (U.S. border) changes.

“These travellers will continue to be required to provide proof of a valid COVID-19 molecular pre-entry (PCR) test result; submit their mandatory information using ArriveCAN (app or website); complete a test on arrival (day one) and on day eight, and quarantine for 14 days,” said Donovan.

Donovan also said island residents are not exempt from Canada’s current travel regulations, even when making trips for items like petrol.

“If officers encounter travellers who were unaware of the mandatory use of ArriveCAN, they will help them to the extent possible for that passage and ensure to inform travellers that future passages will require ArriveCAN,” said Donovan.

“Border services officers can help land travellers comply with the requirement to submit their information digitally by allowing the traveller to return to the U.S. to take the time to complete the ArriveCAN form and re-enter Canada after submitting it.

“Also, where operations make it possible to do so, they can allow the traveller to complete their ArriveCAN submission upon arrival at ports of entry.”

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