The federal government has relaxed travel restrictions, allowing people in remote communities along the Canada-U.S. border to access the necessities of life — including food and medical services — and allowing cross-border students to attend school.
The communities of Stewart, B.C., home to about 400 residents, and Hyder, Alaska, which has a population of 63, are about three kilometres apart.
Residents and local politicians have been asking for the border to be reopened since the travel restrictions went into effect on March 21 in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19.
On Friday, Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, gave them the news they've been waiting to hear.
Under the new adjusted rules, the statement reads: "residents of Campobello Island, New Brunswick; Stewart, British Columbia; Northwest Angle, Minnesota; and Hyder, Alaska will be exempt from mandatory 14-day quarantine only to access the necessities of life (e.g., food, medical services) from the nearest Canadian or American community."
Blair noted the changes, which come into effect Saturday, will allow students (and one driver) to cross the border to go to school and they also allow children who are part of a shared custody arrangement to be exempt from the quarantine period, along with a parent.
"The limited and practical changes will continue to protect Canadians' health and safety while removing hardships for children and for residents in remote communities impacted by the border restrictions."
Relief in the communities
People living in Hyder and Stewart have been calling for changes to travel restrictions for months.
The President of the Hyder Community Association, Wes Loe, said people in the community are relieved, especially children who can now see their friends and attend school.
"Stewart and Hyder, it's like one community with a border in between. We celebrate weddings. We celebrate births. It's one community, then all of a sudden seven and a half months ago they put a wall there."
Loe said the rule change is what residents in the remote communities needed.
"It's a good feeling in the community. It's a positive feeling."