Cross-border kids get a policy change

·2 min read

New Brunswick parents who share child custody with a parent in Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island are in for another change.

Earlier this month, these parents were told their children would need weekly COVID tests to see the other parent, as would the parent ferrying their children over the border.

The move was met by many with alarm and confusion. Parents from all three provinces had specific questions and told the Times & Transcript they couldn’t get straight answers from the New Brunswick government about what they had to do.

New Brunswick has removed the requirement to weekly test all children who regularly cross between Maritime provinces to see the other parent, and are making weekly testing “recommended”. Parents ferrying their children across are not required to get tested.

Jessica Blakeney, who lives in Sackville and shares custody of four of her children with their dad who lives in a rural community in Lunenburg County, said the change is a good one.

“We as parents should be able to be accountable with our kids,” she said.

When her children stay with their dad in Simms Settlement, an area with less COVID cases than Zone 1 of New Brunswick, they behave as though they are in red phase, she said. “They don’t leave the property. For us, it’s part of being responsible.

“This change is wonderful,” she said. “They [the children] miss their dad and want to see him.”

The fear and discomfort associated with the prospect of getting a COVID test every week had been difficult for one of her children in particular, Blakeney said.

“It is one less worry in everyone’s heads,” she said, noting the change will allow her family to have more normalcy in their custody arrangements and schedules.

Crystal Baird, an essential worker in Sackville but who lives in Fort Lawrence on the Nova Scotia side of the border, shares custody of her son, Alexander, with his father, who lives in Sackville.

For Baird, New Brunswick’s changes mean her son doesn’t need to be tested weekly anymore, for which she is thankful.

“Many would have just missed out in seeing the other parent if it wasn’t changed,” she said. “At least they are leaving the kids alone.”

However, as she is an essential worker, another rule now in place means she now needs to be tested every week.

Blakeney said she is glad the government has listened to concerns around this policy and have gone back to the drawing board to fix it, but added communication around such changes needs work. She said she learned of the change through the Times & Transcript and as nobody is posted at the New Brunswick border, she wondered if news of changes is always reaching people most affected.

The Times & Transcript reached out to the province for comment on the change but did not receive a response by press time.

Clara Pasieka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal