Several people with out-of-province licence plates have received a hostile reception in Port Alberni during the COVID-19 pandemic. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

Dual Canadian-U.S. citizens face hostile reception on Vancouver Island

People asked to report suspicious licence plates to Canada Border Services Agency

Some out-of-province people are feeling nervous about the hostile reception they’ve received in Port Alberni on Vancouver Island.

As COVID-19 cases rise in the United States, some British Columbians are worried about out-of-province travellers bringing the virus with them. Health officials in B.C. say that the Canada-U.S. border is expected to remain closed to non-essential travel until at least late August.

But one young woman staying in Port Alberni, a dual Canada and U.S. citizen, says she has had people harassing her and compromising her privacy on social media due to her U.S. licence plates. She has requested to remain anonymous, as RCMP have asked her not to give out any personal details for her safety.

She moved to Port Alberni in mid-May to help out a cousin, but has been in Canada since last summer, staying with family as she goes through the process of a painful divorce. Her car, which still had U.S. plates, was parked in Port Alberni for about a month as she was in the process of having it junked. She became worried when she noticed multiple people taking pictures of the car.

She has since gotten rid of her car, but is still worried because photos of her have been circulating on Facebook.

“I called the RCMP, and they told me [my car] had been reported several times,” she said. “They had already checked with the border crossing and confirmed that I had been in Canada since before COVID hit.”

The RCMP also warned her to “be safe” and keep her phone on her at all times.

“This put me on high alert,” she said.

She said she was surprised by the unwelcome reception from her home country.

“I thought coming back to Canada would be like the hug I needed,” she said. “My original plan was to stay here for a little while and then move back to the States.”

Then COVID-19 hit, and she is now stuck as the Canada-U.S. borders remain closed.

“I’m immuno-compromised myself, so COVID is very scary for me,” she said. “I didn’t expect the animosity. I don’t believe all U.S. licence plates are tied to ‘evil Americans’ who are here to spread the virus. I think a lot of people are in the same situation I’m in. I don’t think it helps when people are being unkind to each other right now.”

She is not the only one who feels unsafe in Port Alberni. Another woman with U.S. licence plates says she has been confronted at multiple locations in town, including gas stations and the Quality Foods parking lot. She is a Canadian citizen and U.S. resident who moved to Port Alberni temporarily in March to take care of her ailing grandmother.

“I actually found a note on my truck saying the cops have my licence number,” she said. “Once while I was driving with my grandmother, somebody flipped us the bird. It’s gotten to the point where I get nervous when I get in the car every day.”

With the borders closed, she doesn’t know how much longer she will be in Canada, but says she is starting to fear for her safety.

“I wish people would be a little bit nicer,” she said. “It’s not like people don’t have a right to be here just because they don’t have B.C. plates.”

Port Alberni city councillor Cindy Solda expressed her concern for some of the “plate-hate” during a meeting of council on Monday, July 13. She explained that she met a family from Alberta that was visiting Port Alberni with the intention of moving to the community.

“These people were looking at houses,” she explained. “In the meantime, the neighbours are taking pictures of their licence plates. It turned [them] off moving to the community. I understand we’re all scared of COVID,” she added. “But we need to have more communication and there’s more reasons why people are in the community.”

READ MORE: B.C. man with Alberta plates gets car keyed and aggressive note

Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions pointed out during the meeting that travel between provinces is currently allowed.

“I know there’s been a lot of concern about the United States licence plates that people are seeing, and I would encourage people to follow proper process,” she said. “It’s not our issue to go out and solve on our own.”

Even B.C.’s top doctor, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said during a press briefing earlier this month that British Columbians need to “take a step back” and realize they may not know why people with out-of-province, or even U.S., licence plates are here. There are numerous reasons American travellers may be in Canada, including work requirements and dual nationality.

If you are concerned about a traveller in the Alberni Valley, report it to the Canada Border Services Agency’s reporting line at 1-888-502-9060 and pass on the licence plate number and where you saw them.

If the CBSA has concerns, the RCMP in the area will be tasked to check on the visitor.



elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

SLIDESHOW: Chilliwack firefighters battle large blaze at Rosedale chicken barn Friday

Majority of birds saved but buildings on Castleman Road destroyed by fire

Chilliwack Fair kicks off tonight with local talent

Todd Richard and Appaloosa to hit the stage for drive-in concert at fairgrounds

VIDEO: Chilliwack chicken barn destroyed by fire

Chickens saved from blaze as firefighters work to control large fire

Seabird Island COVID-19 ‘scare’ has passed, Chief states

Reaffirmation comes during Chief Harris’s weekly video address

Firefighters bring Sts’ailes FSR fire under control

Blaze held at bay after burning 15 hectares of land

53 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths cap off week of high infection rates in B.C.

Roughly 1,500 people are self-isolating because they either have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it

Unofficial holidays: the weird and wonderful things people celebrate around the world

On any given day of the year, there are several strange, silly or serious holidays to observe

Fraser Valley Bandits advance to CEBL Championship Game

Bandits post comeback 76-75 win over Hamilton Honey Badgers in Saturday’s semifinal

IHIT on scene of suspicious early-morning fire on rural Mission property

Entrance to Gunn Avenue property cordoned off while investigation takes place, updates coming

Moving on: Tanev scores 11 seconds into OT as Canucks oust Wild

Vancouver beats Minnesota 5-4 to move into first round of NHL playoffs

FURTHER UPDATE: Body removed from Maple Ridge hotel after large police presence

A large contingent of Mounties were at the Art Infiniti Hotel Friday afternoon and evening

Gene editing debate takes root with organic broccoli, new UBC research shows

Broccoli is one of the best-known vegetables with origins in this scientific haze

VIDEO: U.S. Air Force pilot does fly-by for B.C. son amid COVID border separation

Sky-high father-son visit plays out over White Rock Pier

3 Vancouver police officers test positive for COVID after responding to large party

Union president says other officers are self-isolating due to possible exposure

Most Read