New Brunswick's bubble might be expanding with a region in Quebec this weekend, but it will take a long time for two communities to heal from the separation, according to the Campbellton mayor and the chief of Listuguj First Nation in Quebec.
The two communities are just a bridge apart and have always been closely intertwined. But they were cut off from one another since the pandemic hit and New Brunswick closed its borders in March. This resulted in families being separated, businesses suffering losses, and people not able to receive essential services.
"We have to demonstrate there's healing and reconnecting that needs to happen," said Darcy Gray, chief of Listuguj First Nation, who describes the reunification as "stitching the two communities back together."
Gray has expressed his concern over hurtful comments and discrimination directed at Quebecers and Mi'kmaq residents that could linger, even after the border reopens.
"It's going to take goodwill and lots of understanding of the frustration," said Campbellton Mayor Stephanie Anglehart-Paulin
New Brunswick will welcome visitors from two Quebec border regions who pre-register for day trips only, starting Saturday, Premier Blaine Higgs announced on Thursday.
Residents of Avignon Regional County Municipality, which borders Restigouche County and includes Listuguj First Nation and Pointe-à-la-Croix, and of Témiscouata Regional County Municipality, which borders Madawaska County will be able to cross into the province without having to self-isolate.
"They're going to be able to freely come across and go to where they need to go and not be followed, [which] to me means everything," said Anglehart-Paulin.
New Brunswickers will be able to travel to the Quebec communities and not have to self-isolate on their return.
The travel bubble expansion applies only to those regions and not the rest of Quebec, Higgs told reporters Thursday.
Expansion didn't come without pressure
Gray and Anglehart-Paulin said the expansion didn't come without pressure, a lot of discussion and some education from the two communities.
"It's been a long haul right from the beginning," the mayor said.
Although they were disappointed it took so long to expand the bubble, the leaders are pleased families will be able to reunite. They said people from Listuguj First Nation will be able to access essential services, such as groceries and the hospital.
Listuguj First Nation adapted to the closed border by shopping and working with businesses in Quebec's Gaspé Peninsula. Campbellton businesses advocated allowing Listuguj and other neighbouring municipalities into the Atlantic travel bubble, which opened earlier this month.
With the daytime bubble, businesses in Campbellton will likely to see an increase in sales. Anglehart-Paulin said most restaurants and stores receive about 50 per cent of their business from the Quebec community,
"The businesses are ready," she said.
Pushing through the noise
Anglehart-Paulin heard about the expansion from the media earlier this month, while Gray found out about it after a phone call he received from Higgs on July 10, which he said was encouraging.
"It's not a perfect solution, but I don't think it's the end either," Gray said. "There's more work to be done."
Now that the borders will be opening, the two leaders said they will be in constant communication to bring the two communities back together.
"That's the only way leaders can push through this noise," she said.
Higgs said any other areas or the rest of Canada won't be considered for at least two weeks, until he sees how the minor Quebec bubble is working, he said. The coronavirus has an estimated incubation period of up to 14 days.
Anglehart-Paulin said the two communities are also hoping to have an emergency plan in place so a separation like this one won't happen again.