U.S. couple who consider P.E.I. home desperate for guidance on border rules

·3 min read
Linda Clark, right, is pictured with her granddaughter Sophia, husband Robert Westbom and their dog Ceilidh. All frequently spend time in P.E.I. and can't wait for the U.S.-Canada border to reopen. (Submitted by Linda Clark - image credit)
Linda Clark, right, is pictured with her granddaughter Sophia, husband Robert Westbom and their dog Ceilidh. All frequently spend time in P.E.I. and can't wait for the U.S.-Canada border to reopen. (Submitted by Linda Clark - image credit)

Linda Clark is from Vermont, but her heart is in P.E.I.

"I just pray they're going to let us come home," said the recently retired teacher from the city of Rutland, Vt.

The 68-year-old has owned a cottage in the Rustico area for more than 17 years, and she's itching to get back to the Island she returns to every year — or did, until COVID-19 made that impossible.

The border has been closed to all but essential travellers for a year, and even as vaccination programs ramp up in both countries, neither has laid out the conditions for a possible reopening or any timeline. Clark says she wants people to remember that people south of the border want to get back for emotional reasons, yes, but they have a financial investment in P.E.I., too.

"I am not a tourist anymore," she said. "It is home. I pay taxes, property insurance, electric bill, maintenance on my cottage, as well as food and clothing when there," she told CBC News. "Most importantly, my friends are there."

Clark says she has a favourite church on the Island; a grandaughter, Sophia, whose best friend lives on the Island; and even a dog she bought on P.E.I. about eight years ago: a shih tzu named Ceilidh.

Couple soon to be vaccinated

Clark plans to live on P.E.I. for six months a year, and being kept away has been heartbreaking, she said.

Clark says all the COVID-19 restrictions have been understandable. But now that she's had her first dose of vaccine, with the second scheduled for Wednesday, she's wondering when she and her husband, Robert Westbom, can return.

"If people can show proof of being vaccinated and follow any specific rules to ensure safety, shouldn't we be allowed to come to our cottages?" she said.

Clark says they got their dog Ceilidh on P.E.I. and she won second place in a Kensington dog show.
Clark says they got their dog Ceilidh on P.E.I. and she won second place in a Kensington dog show.(Submitted by Linda Clark)

P.E.I. MP Wayne Easter is among those who have recently called for a strategy on how the border can be reopened.

Easter co-chairs a Canada-U.S. inter-parliamentary group and issued a joint statement Wednesday with his American counterpart, Congressman Brian Higgins, saying both the Canadian and U.S. governments need to make a plan for the border a priority.

"We need a step-by-step process of the A, Bs and Cs, what has to be in place to allow that border to open, what dates we are trying to target to get it done," Easter said. "So we can give our businesses and others assurances that there is a normalization down the road but with all the safety factors included."

Border decision a federal issue

In a COVID-19 briefing on March 23, P.E.I. Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said any decisions regarding the U.S.-Canada border rest entirely with the federal government.

If the border were to open, visitors from the U.S. would follow the same rules as other seasonal residents; whether vaccinated or not, they would still be required to isolate for 14 days.

However, Morrison said they expect to have some details early in April on what adjustments the province is planning based on whether someone is vaccinated.

Clark says she's willing to abide by any quarantine, and when the border is opened they'll hop in their car straight away.

"I'm getting goose bumps right now.... I'm picturing my friends, hugging me as soon as I get there," she said.

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