March 4, 2021 / Susan Lazaruk / Vancouver Sun

'We miss you so badly. Please, please, please come back': Washington state to B.C.

With first anniversary of Canada-U.S. border closure approaching, border towns in U.S. are counting the ways in which the absence of Canadian shoppers is hurting economically.

For Canadians looking for a convenient U.S. postal box, they can’t beat Mail Boxes Plus in Blaine, Wash.

“I’m a half-minute from the border,” said owner Christina Hannon. “My customers are 90 per cent Canadian.”

Hannon is a small parcel pickup, but she’s busy. Or was, pre-COVID-19.

“Eleven-and-a-half months, I’m just so, so, not doing well,” she said.

Canadians not in a hurry for their mail-ordered stuff have delayed pickup, and “there’s no space here, I can’t walk anymore. Packages are holding. One lady, she has 200 boxes. I’m like a warehouse,” Hannon said.

Hannon is among several businesses and Washingtonians that are feeling a big hole where Canadians used to travel through. An estimated 7.3 million Canadians crossed the border going south in 2019, and they outnumber U.S. crossers three to one, according to a fall 2020 report by Western Washington University (WWU).

“We miss you so badly,” said Sandy Ward, CEO of Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism. “Please, please, please, come back.” She said: “We’ve been devastated by the closure of the border. And it’s not just Canadians who are no longer coming to the northwest corner of the U.S. It’s Californians, Oregonians and Washingtonians, all of whom used to travel through the area to take a ferry to Victoria or drive through the land border crossings on their way to Vancouver, Whistler or Alaska.”

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        We acknowledge that Whatcom County is located on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples. They cared for the lands that included what we’d call the Puget Sound region, Vancouver Island and British Columbia since time immemorial. This gives us the great obligation and opportunity to learn how to care for our surrounding areas and all the natural and human resources we require to live. We express our deepest respect and gratitude for our indigenous neighbors, the Lummi Nation and Nooksack Tribe, for their enduring care and protection of our shared lands and waterways.
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