Irwin Block, Montreal Gazette, September 25, 2009
The erection of security gates on two streets that connect Stanstead in the Eastern Townships and Derby Line, Vt., is unfortunate but necessary, say residents of the towns that straddle the Canadian-U.S. border.
The objective is to prevent illegal migrants, illicit drugs and unregistered firearms from crossing the border in either direction, RCMP officials said.
“It’s very understandable,” said Micheline Plourde, a Stanstead Journal employee and longtime resident of the town located about 150 kilometres southeast of Montreal.
“Unfortunately, it’s not local residents who are crossing the border on those streets–they’re from Montreal, Ontario and elsewhere.”
“We’re not the ones who are behaving dishonestly, and, unfortunately, it happens,” she noted, adding she was not sure everyone in Stanstead agrees with the move.
Locals are aware that to cross the border into adjoining Derby Line, you have to pass through Customs and Immigration, Plourde noted.
She was reacting to the announcement Friday by the RCMP Integrated Border Enforcement Team that the gates will be erected on Ball Street in Stanstead, which becomes Phelps on the Vermont side, and Lee Street, which becomes Pelow Hill.
It will take two weeks to install the granite posts with gates, similar to those across level crossings–one on the Canadian side, the other in the U.S.
Erection of the barriers follows two years of consultations. A compromise was reached, cancelling plans to erect a barrier on another street, as well.
Nancy Rumery, a librarian at the Haskell Free Library in Derby Line, said she’s satisfied it’s a movable gate–not a fixed barrier–that will open and close, allowing for winter maintenance, with access to emergency vehicles.
Residents who have a bathroom in one country and a kitchen in the other will be able to open the gate for special and specific purposes, such as backing up a vehicle.
“This is for two or three people who live next to the gate,” RCMP Sgt. Luc Bessette said.