Couples divided by closed border say “Family isn’t Tourism”

Published: May. 21, 2021 at 11:19 AM EDT
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FORT KENT, Maine (WAGM) - Holidays, anniversaries, birthdays. It’s been 14 months, and families separated by the US-Canadian border have missed every yearly celebration.

Jim Desjardins and Sylvie Corriveau have been together for three years, but in March of 2020 they spent their last night together. With Sylvie in New Brunswick and Jim in Maine, the two are left with phone calls and coordinated sightings across the St John River.

“The whole dynamic of living in a border town is this is more like one community than it is two separate countries,” says Jim.

Jim knows that he and Sylvie have it better than others. He knows people who were unable to say goodbye to dying parents, but knowing that he and Sylvie are both vaccinated, he struggles to understand why he can’t visit.

“Here’s the frustrating part--I have crossed into Canada five times in the last year because I can go buy parts, I’m a logger and I can go buy parts for logging equipment.”

Jim was granted a federal exemption to go visit Sylvie, but neither he nor Sylvie can afford to miss work for the 14 days needed to quarantine, and now New Brunswick’s further-tightened restrictions have made it impossible.

“There’s things that, if you think about it doesn’t make any sense,” says Sylvie.

Jim laments that business is being prioritized over people, while Sylvie asks why vaccines don’t come with some type of privilege. Both know that they might not see one another again until tourism opens up.

“Family isn’t tourism,” says Jim.

Jim and sylvie aren’t alone. There are advocacy groups, Facebook pages, and even some politicians speaking up about families divided at the border. It’s unsure when it will reopen but until it does, Jim and Sylvie will continue to meet here, across the river, just a phone call away.

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