Community of St. Stephen, N.B. reacts to closure of Canada-U.S. border

Situated right on the Canada-U.S. border, residents of St. Stephen, New Brunswick need only cross the St. Croix River to be in Calais, Maine.

The close proximity means many residents cross the border daily.

“When you live in a border town, you just do it,” one resident tells Global News. “I mean they’ve got a Walmart, we don’t.”

Some head to Calais to take advantage of lower prices on gas and milk, some for the different foods available.

Another resident said, “I cross every morning – almost every morning. I kinda like their McDonald’s over there.”

It’s just routine for both communities, says New Brunswick Southwest MP John Williamson.


“The communities operate, in many ways, as one community,” said Williamson. “They share fire services, for example.”

The two communities do, in fact, share equipment and personnel in relation to firefighting.

Though, that’s set to continue as usual.

The mutual agreement between Canada and the United States will see essential services continue to cross, as well as those who need to cross for work – but not those looking to save a couple bucks or get some American fast food.

“It’s a dramatic move,” said Williamson, “but across the country, we’re seeing province’s declaring states of emergency so this is the new normal we’re living in – which is to prepare for the unexpected.”

Some families are split by the border, too.

According to St. Stephen Mayor Allan MacEachern, this is still one of the details that will need to be worked out.

“Say I lived here in St. Stephen and my elderly parents were on the other side,” he said. “I’d want to be able to get to see them, so we’ll have to find out what essential services are.”

More unusual than the circumstances of the cross-border sharing, may be the sudden loss of that amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’ve obviously never witnessed this in the eight years I’ve been around,” MacEachern said.

“I can’t say that I’m not nervous.”

That uncertainty is felt throughout St. Stephen, though most residents seem to agree the closing of the border is the right move.

“It’s going to be hard for us because we are limited for groceries,” another resident said, “but we gotta do what we got to do in order to keep this at bay.”

And through the uncertainty, MP Williamson is encouraging calm.

“Life will return to normal.”

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