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Alaska Residents are Waiting to Get back to America

Caroline Stewart of Hyder, Alaska is looking forward to returning to her Canadian church. This winter, Steven Auch of Haines is looking forward to snowmachining in the Yukon Pass. Andrew Cremata of Skagway wants to go fishing in the north. The reopening of Canada to vaccinated Americans on Monday marked a tiny return to regular life for many Alaska living in Southeast towns on the border, after more than a year of isolation from adjacent communities.

However, some Alaska believe the COVID-19 testing requirements for entry into Canada are still excessively onerous. Haines has felt like an island since the border was closed in March 2020, according to borough tourism director Steven Auch. Skagway locals have also felt isolated, according to Mayor Andrew Cremata. He intends to cross the border shortly to go fishing and said he is looking forward to reuniting with Yukon buddies.

He said, “It was really the border closure that kind of cemented that. Normally in the winter, the ferry service is pretty bad and flights are difficult to come by, so it feels kind of isolated in the winter already, but at least we could drive off into Canada, get to Whitehorse if we wanted to.” It’s massive on every level imaginable. There are some Yukon property owners who haven’t been able to see their properties in nearly two years.

There are people who have relationships with folks in the Yukon, and the only option to visit them has been via plane, so it’s a huge issue — it’s difficult to emphasise how important that is. Both Haines and Skagway have suffered financial losses as a result of the border closure. When Canadian tourists came to Haines for fishing tours or outdoor leisure, it boosted the local economy, according to Haines Mayor Douglas Olerud. Both communities rely significantly on tourism and were seriously hurt by the loss of cruise ship guests last summer during the outbreak.

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