BLAINE, Wash. - Communities on both sides of the U.S. – Canadian border are hoping rising vaccinationrates could mean life may finally soon be returning to normal. On Tuesday, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee urged federal officials to consider an immediate full or partial reopening of the international border.
It is being seen as a positive step for communities that depend on our northern neighbors for a strong economy.
Families with loved ones living on either side of the border sometimes meet in person at the Peace Arch Historical State Park in Blaine.
The Robinson family are Canadian and their son Matt lives in Whatcom County with his wife and their 1-year-old child Casey who was born in the U.S.
"It was on the news that Canada is supposed to relax travel conditions," Matt said.
Thanks to the border closure, Matt’s parents have missed precious milestones.
"They missed his birth, his first birthday party," he said. "They’re ready for this to be over."
"We need the American tourists," Matt’s father Randy said. "Americans probably need the tourists, too."
In Blaine, the closure has left a mark and the empty storefronts show the scars.
"It’s been tough," said business owner Gary Slavin.
Slavin said his mother’s health has been in decline and the pandemic means visiting her has been impossible since she lives in Canada.
"She had a stroke a month ago, it’s been hard not being able to go up to see her," he said.
Despite that heartache, Slavin opened the Rustic Fork restaurant in downtown Blaine last December. Thanks to available real estate he is planning expansions, anticipating a coming boom of tourists from Canada.
"Hopefully we have win-win on both sides of the border," he said.
The current closure expires June 21, many hope June 22 means visitors will again be able to cross paths.
Canadian officials may allow those vaccinated to cross, but the Prime Minister has not yet said when. Governor Inslee suggests travelers may have to show proof of vaccination before being allowed to cross, while Canadian leaders insist higher vaccination rates will drive the policy.
Border communities like Blaine hope the border closure ends before the businesses that survived last summer don’t have to start hunkering down for a second season.
President Joe Biden is expected to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this Friday during the G7 Summit happening in the United Kingdom.
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