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

The temporary public washroom located between 531 & 521 1st Avenue will soon be removed to begin construction on the permanent downtown public washroom facility. (Cole Schisler photo)
Construction on downtown public washroom to begin ‘before Christmas’

Council and staff discussed the possibility of a contest to determine the colour of the washroom

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

Maya Norte restaurant on Roberts Street in Ladysmith. (Submitted photo)
Maya Norte teams up with Disaster Aid Canada to support Flooded Schools in Melaque

Starting this weekend Maya Norte will have a specialty Melaque Cocktail and Tapas available

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Conservation officers hope the public can provide information about who shot and left a bull and cow Roosevelt elk near Spruston Road, south of Nanaimo. (Photo: Facebook)
Pair of Roosevelt elk shot and left in woods south of Nanaimo

Conservation officers hope public can help find who killed the animals near Spruston Road

Most Read