Skip to content

Canadian border re-opening a further blow to Point Roberts businesses

Residents can now make quick trips into South Delta for shopping
Inslee international marketplace
International Marketplace owner Ali Hayton (left) and Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee and US Congresswoman Suzan DelBene during tour of her store back in July. Business has dipped even further for the community's lone grocery store since the re-opening of the Canadian border earlier this month.

The re-opening of the Canadian border for non-essential travel earlier this month has resulted in even further losses for the Point Roberts businesses community.

As of Aug. 9, Point Roberts’ residents can make trips across the border, without proof of a negative COVID-19 test or even being fully vaccinated, as long as they stay within the bordering South Delta community. That information must be detailed in the Arrive Canada app at the Boundary Bay Crossing. COVID testing is not required to return to the U.S.

It has not only resulted in making the short trips for overdue dentist, veterinarian and other appointments but some shopping as well. Just ask some of the Point Roberts businesses.

The International Market Place, the community’s lone grocery store, has seen business dip another 25 percent, resulting in even less pre-ordering for perishable items such as produce. Store owner Ali Hayton had earlier received $100,000 in emergency state funding just to keep her store operating and that was prior to the Canadian border re-opening.

A convenience store/gas station is reporting a further 50 percent reduction of business while the Salt Water Café, one of two restaurants in the community, announced it will be closing its doors until the border re-opens for Canadian customers.

There is also the realization the window has all but closed for the second straight year on the Point’s busiest season, when Canadians spend much of the summer in their vacation homes and supporting the local economy.

For much of the pandemic, it was believed Canada was reluctant to open the border. There was even speculation back in June the U.S. side would re-open unilaterally. Instead, the opposite happened two months later, to the surprise and even shock of many.

“I don’t blame people for escaping. For 18 months it has been absolutely soul-crushing to our population here, to the point several have moved away completely,” Point Roberts Chamber of Commerce president Brian Calder told the Delta Optimist. “We have never been invited to the table to talk about our situation. It’s a one size fits all mentality.”

Calder hasn’t had to look far for support with Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, Senator Patty Murray and U.S. Congresswoman Suzan DelBene asking U.S. Department of Homeland Security to make an exception for Point Roberts due to its unique situation as an exclave. Inslee made a rare visit earlier this summer while Murray expressed her frustration soon after the border closure was extended to Sept. 21.

“This is the wrong decision by the administration—there must at the very least be an exemption for Point Roberts as we work to safely reopen the U.S.-Canada border,” she said in a prepared statement. “I have yet to be presented with a compelling explanation outlining why a border exemption for Point Roberts has not yet been provided. I’ve spoken directly with Secretary (of Homeland Security) Mayorkas about this, with top White House officials, and senior officials at the State Department as well—I will keep pressing the administration on this until we get this matter resolved.”

Calder also wrote a letter to U.S. President Joe Biden last week, hoping an exception can be made.

“Without immediate government action, Point Roberts will soon become a community of the past. The ongoing U.S. border closure has strangled its economy, and with Canada recently opening its border, the compounded impacts on our businesses is devastating,” he wrote. “We are making one last attempt to present our case as to why border restrictions must be relaxed at the Boundary Bay/Point Roberts, WA border crossing so fully-vaccinated Canadians can come to Point Roberts, access their properties, and support our flailing economy.”