This weekend, it’s my dad’s birthday. His health has rapidly deteriorated since the beginning of the pandemic and my heart breaks every single day that I can’t be there to help my mom, dad, brother and sister-in-law.
Why can’t I be there? Well, I am a dual citizen–a Canadian living in the U.S.–and the border battle has me trapped.
Let me explain.
I grew up just outside of Windsor, Ontario, Canada, the southernmost city in the country. Across the river is Detroit, Michigan, United States, and, as many people in border cities do, we spent a considerable amount of time there. My brother, dad and I all went to school in the States, my mom worked in Detroit for a period of time and just about every Sunday growing up, my parents and I would cross the border to go to car shows, shop and eat out.
I was living in Los Angeles when 9/11 shut down the international border for a few weeks. Some of my friends, who lived in Windsor but worked in Detroit, lost their jobs (this was way before remote work was a thing). But, the border soon opened and although restrictions were tighter, regular life resumed.
When COVID stopped the world in its tracks, we had no idea what we were in for. We had just celebrated my youngest’s 5th birthday with family and friends and were getting ready to take the girls to Copenhagen for spring break. My mom was scheduled to come over to watch our dog, as she often did for us. When the border shut down, we weren’t prepared for what was to come.
My girls and I are all dual citizens of the U.S. and Canada, something that’s not uncommon where we live–even my oldest’s orthodontist is a dual citizen, having grown up not too far from me. So, technically, we had a right to be in both countries. But, with Canada’s strict two-week quarantine requirements away from anyone over the age of 65 (i.e. my parents), we just keep hoping that, on the 21st of each month when its leaders would re-evaluate the closure, they would decide to re-open.
Well, six months later, growing impatient at not seeing my family and my girls missing their grandparents, I started looking for quarantine locations. The problem? No one wanted to rent their Airbnbs to Americans because of the well-publicized death rates in the States and only two hotels would allow Americans–at a premium rate. I had heard stories of American’s cars getting keyed in Canada and the police called on them, so, honestly, I was terrified of putting myself and the girls in that situation.
When the girls’ school went virtual again at Halloween, I seized the opportunity to rent a vacation cottage from a family member of one of my daughter’s friends. Read all about the quarantine here. I spent A LOT of money, just for us to sit in a stranger’s house for two weeks in order to see my parents, brother and sister-in-law for a few days. But it was worth it to know that we were all healthy and COVID-free. It was just frustrating to know that Canadian friends of mine who were working in the States could come and go freely without quarantining and I spent a couple of grand and almost three weeks away from my husband (a non-Canadian citizen).
Changing Border Restrictions
In May, dad’s situation started to get worse, so I made plans to go, by myself. The rules had changed, yet again, so in addition to having a negative PCR test and quarantine plan, I was given two COVID test boxes at the border, told to make an appointment for tele-health so they could watch me administer the COVID test myself and then leave the package outside my door for an overnight delivery service to pick up. At this point, I was incredibly frustrated because that sure seemed like a lot of money spent by the Canadian government when not everyone over the age of 50 had access to vaccinations yet.
This time, fully vaccinated, I opted to stay in my parents’ finished basement. Without the kids, it didn’t really matter that I wouldn’t have access to the outside. My mom cooked meals and left them at the door and I just worked away downstairs.
After four or five days, though, the kids were missing me and my youngest got hurt playing at school, so I checked the requirements to leave and found that, as a dual citizen, I could leave quarantine at any time if I left by my own personal vehicle and exited the country immediately. That wasn’t too hard to do since my parents live seven minutes from the border.
So, I emailed and called the Canadian government 13 times to report that I’d left. And guess what? Two days after I returned to the U.S., they sent a government official to my parents’ house looking for me because I had missed a random check-in call. Yep. AFTER I reported (and border records showed) that I had left the country. Unreal.