A resource company is hoping to explore the idea of reopening the international border between Hyder Alaska and Stewart B.C.
Pretivm is calling on the federal government to make the two small towns a formally recognized integrated trans-border community.
The Executive Vice President, Corporate Affairs and Sustainability for Pretivm Resources Michelle Romero wrote an open letter to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair.
In the letter, she said Pretivm holds mineral claims that they need to access using a road past the border. They don’t operate a camp there and the crew stays in Stewart and commutes to the site. She added their exploration efforts on these claims have been greatly restricted because of the border closure.
“As one of the many mining and exploration companies operating in the region, we view Stewart and Hyder, Alaska as symbiotic communties,” she continued to write. “These two small geographically remote towns have historically sustained a trans-border community which in turn has supported the mining industry in northern B.C. The border closure has hindered normal business and interpersonal relationships and consequentially, the economic and social wellbeing of this entire trans-border community.”
MP for Skeena Bulkley Valley Taylor Bachrach also wrote an open letter to Minister Blair calling for change.
He wrote that while he supports the closure of the Canada-US border more generally, he believes this particular border crossing deserves special consideration due to the unique geography and social factors.
When he travelled to Stewart, he was told by local community leaders that one member of each Hyder household was being allowed to cross the border to Stewart once per week for three hours in order to purchase supplies.
Stewart residents who cross the border to Hyder are being required to quarantine upon their return to Canada. Bachrach thinks these limited exemptions are inconsistent with the way in which other essential travel across the border is being handled. For example, he continued, workers from Canada crossing into Alaska for work are not being required to enter quarantine.
“We believe local residents from Hyder and Stewart should be able to cross the border for their daily needs,” he said. “What the residents have been calling for is the concept of a travel bubble which would allow for more free passage for locals only.”
Bachrach has spoken with Minister Blair and encouraged him find a solution as soon as possible.
The minister indicated to him it would not be possible to designate Hyder and Stewart as an integrated trans-border community, he said.
Minister Blair told him that is language that shows up in the order of council that created the border closure and that term only applies to one First Nation community in Ontario.
However, Bachrach said he did seem willing to consider some other type of arrangement and that is what the Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP will continue to push for and is hopeful a decision will be made soon.