Between Canada and the United States, a border as endless as the wait for its reopening

Families separated by the closure of the border between Canada and the United States in Peace Arch Park in Blaine, Washington, on May 17.


It was a border without history. Americans and Canadians crossed it briskly, often barely aware of moving from one country to another. An almost imaginary line, now locked and bristling with prohibitions.

Its route did cause some hitches in history between the United States of America and British North America, the future Canada, then possession of the United Kingdom. In 1844, an American presidential candidate, James Knox Polk, even claimed land in Oregon (now the states of Oregon and Washington in the United States, and British Columbia in Canada. ), disputed by the two powers, a campaign argument “54-40 or fight” (“54 ° 40 ‘or the fight”); but once elected to the White House, a neighborhood war seemed superfluous to him. Wisdom led him to negotiate.

Since then, the two peoples had lived in an almost perfect understanding on either side of the longest land border in the world: 8,891 kilometers from the Atlantic to the Pacific, a winding line in the east that follows the shores of the great lakes, more regular west to marry 49e parallel north, with an outgrowth to the northwest to delimit Alaska, in the fold of the United States. A border that runs along thirteen American states and eight Canadian provinces, hardly more guarded than a phantom border post between Belgium and France, and on each side of which thousands of residents organized their lives, sometimes playing leapfrog every day with her.

Historic first

But due to a virus devoid of the most basic administrative knowledge, which commonly requires not to leave a territory without authorization, this endless border was closed on March 18, a historic first. Since then, in an attempt to stem the Covid-19 pandemic, which is particularly virulent in the United States, the political authorities of the two countries are renewing its lockdown month after month.

For the inhabitants of Stanstead, a small town of 2,800 souls straddling Quebec (Canada) and Vermont (United States), this closure changes everything. The border, symbolized by a black line painted on the ground, crosses the Haskell Municipal Library: books on the American side, seats on the Canadian side, and readers from both countries to enjoy it. Historically, the Canadians of Stanstead have led a double life, enjoying a job that pays more in American dollars on the other side of the line, and less expensive homes on the Quebec side, with cozy restaurants like La Vieille Douane to welcome their guests. Yankee friends.

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