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Experiences

The Weird Reality of Living At The American/Canadian Border

Every morning I wake up in my wonderful Canadian bedroom to look out the window to see the beautiful American suburbs. The world I see is not of my own country’s, but of the country next door. My neighbours are Americans, they live and work in America, but they’re still my neighbors. 

I live on the unceded lands of the Coast Salish and Semiahmoo right on the border that separates Canada and the United States of America. Living next door to a border crossing is overall a weird experience. People often ask me what my experience is like and all I can honestly only say is that it is weird! 

The experience I have with my living location is very unrelatable to those in most suburban areas. As previously mentioned, my neighbours are American. We live face to face, but there is a ragged old fence and a small ditch to keep us from borrowing sugar from each other. My American neighbours and I have never greeted each other, or even made eye contact. If we have, we look away right away. It’s like there is some unspoken rule that we cannot communicate. 

Police cars roam around my neighborhood frequently. Sometimes there are American border guards sitting in cars watching Canadians live their lives. They stare at your every move and make you feel like walking your dog around the block is an international crime. 

Occasionally the border crossing will encounter a person illegally entering the country. Alarms will blair and helicopters will fly above searching for the person. I felt scared the first couple times that it happened, but now I often tune the sounds out. On our Canadian only facebook neighbourhood page, people often share their video footage of people being arrested for jumping the border for some reason and sometimes this makes me think that my life is just an episode of Border Security. 

In the Trump era, border security discussions were polarized like no tomorrow. Yet, the Canadian and American border seemed to often get lost in conversation. I used to listen to news of border security and how it has such importance to American sovereignty, but apparently the Canadian border wasn’t a major threat. What a weird time it was to hear about building walls across border lines when the border by my house is so avoidable that it is easy to accidentally cross the lines. 

By far, the strangest thing about living on the Canadian-American border is the fact that I live in the middle of nowhere. The closest grocery store to my house is five minutes away, if you cross the border into America. A joke I tell people sometimes is that I live in America, just because I was always there. With that being said, I would cross the border for random items all the time. I can’t even count the times I would cross the border just to go to Taco Bell for a Baja Blast Freeze (don’t tell Biden that). 

The shutdown of the border due to COVID-19 has been a hard time for everyone, but there has been some benefits. For example, I am now able to get into my neighborhood without having the tremendously long border lineups blocking the entrances. Although, I would take that back just to have any trip down to a Target store. 

Kiara is an International Studies major concentrating in International Security and Conflict with a minor in Labour Studies at Simon Fraser University.
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