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N.B.-N.S. border remains closed due to protest about isolation requirements

People upset about announcement travellers from N.B. must self-isolate upon arrival

Part of Nova Scotia's Trans-Canada Highway remains closed because of a protest over border restrictions announced Tuesday by the provincial government.

Part of Nova Scotia's Trans-Canada Highway remains closed because of a protest over border restrictions announced Tuesday by the provincial government.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Jonathan Villeneuve

RCI

Traffic remained at a standstill on a section of Nova Scotia's Trans-Canada Highway Wednesday morning as people continue to protest border restrictions that mean travellers from New Brunswick must continue to self-isolate upon arrival in Nova Scotia.

Paul MacDougall of Halifax has been stranded in his car since Tuesday night waiting in a line to get into Nova Scotia. 

I'm extremely exhausted. I have no food, no water, he told CBC's Information Morning Halifax

I've been trying to sleep all night just in the front seat here, just taking a nap when I can. But it's hard to do because I'm just worried ... the traffic is going to start moving and I might miss my opportunity to get out of here. 

The Nova Scotia government announced Tuesday afternoon that travellers from New Brunswick will continue to have to self-isolate upon arrival (new window), a decision that came less than 24 hours before Nova Scotia opened its borders with P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador without isolation or testing requirements.

People travelling from New Brunswick — including Nova Scotians returning from that province — can enter Nova Scotia for any reason but will have isolation and testing requirements based on their vaccination status.

Part of Nova Scotia's Trans-Canada Highway remains closed because of a protest over border restrictions announced Tuesday by the provincial government.

Part of Nova Scotia's Trans-Canada Highway remains closed because of a protest over border restrictions announced Tuesday by the provincial government.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Jonathan Villeneuve

New Brunswick had initially been included in Nova Scotia's Wednesday reopening plans for travellers in the Atlantic region, announced little more than a week ago. Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin's last-minute reversal has angered many people in the Maritimes who had eagerly anticipated being able to freely cross the New Brunswick-Nova Scotia border.

Rankin said the decision was prompted by New Brunswick opening its borders to Canadian travellers (new window) from outside the Atlantic region last week without the requirement they self-isolate, provided they have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. It is the only Atlantic Canadian province to do so.

In response to Rankin's announcement, people started protesting shortly before 5 p.m. All four lanes at Exit 7 on the Trans-Canada Highway at the Cobequid Pass — about 50 kilometres from the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border — were closed for the rest of the evening. 

That section later reopened, but the border itself was closed before midnight and protesters are gathered there Wednesday morning.

RCMP talking to protesters 

RCMP were stationed at the border overnight. Cpl. Chris Marshall said beyond blocking the highway, no laws had been broken but a significant number of people were protesting on both sides of the border. 

He said the force was in the process of bringing in additional resources and planned to continue dialogue with the protesters.

To see if we can't get these folks to essentially, at the very least, even get off the highway so we can reopen it. So we can continue a dialogue with them to determine what it is that they're looking for, he said. 

Unfortunately, it's not a quick process and it's not an easy process. There's a fine line we have to walk where people have a Charter-protected right to protest, to peacefully assemble.... It's all a matter of peacefully trying to resolve the matter.

Police remained at the border Wednesday morning.

Police remained at the border Wednesday morning.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Jonathan Villeneuve

Jenn Moodie was one of the people protesting and said she objected to falsified information given to the public and the false promises.

She said the government should not be able to dictate where people go and she was prepared to stay as long as it took to get the message across. 

If the government can state we can't do these things against our Charter of Rights, we are going in protest to say, 'No, it's not acceptable.' You can't keep hanging a carrot in front of all of your people and then yanking the carrot away. You can't keep giving false promises. Lie after lie.

Moodie said she wasn't personally affected by the border restrictions since her family is in Ontario, though she said she's been there eight times during the pandemic as she doesn't follow 14-day quarantine protocols when she returns to Nova Scotia. 

I come and go. But unfortunately for here I know quite a few people that are going through a lot of mental health issues. A lot of kids who were looking forward to plans made, Airbnbs booked. Travel made.

Stuck at border

MacDougall, the stranded driver, had gone to New Brunswick for work earlier this week expecting to be able to drive home around midnight Tuesday without any restrictions. By the time he heard about the new rules that would require him to self-isolate, it was too late to return before they went into effect.

He decided to drive home anyway to start his self isolation but once he hit the border, it was blocked by vehicles. 

A big crowd of people lined the cars going across the road and yeah, and that was just kind of a shock, he said. 

Shortly after he arrived around 11 p.m., an RCMP checked in to see if MacDougall wanted to turn around.

I just thought that this would be cleared up within a short while. So I said, no, I'll just sit here and sit and hold tight, he said. 

He said he could understand people's frustrations but he described the wait to get in as torturous.

For hours, MacDougall could see the Welcome to Nova Scotia sign at the border but traffic remained at a standstill. Three vehicles were ahead of him. 

Amherst considering comfort centres

As a result of the border closure, the Nova Scotia Health Authority is advising that the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre is only providing essential services because health-care workers who live in New Brunswick aren't able to get to work. 

David Kogon, the mayor of Amherst, a town on the Nova Scotia side of the border, told Information Morning the town was prepared to open comfort centres so people who were stranded could use washroom facilities and get some food, if it was determined that such help was needed. 

The blockades on the highway have shown that there's a significant number of people who are really, really angry that the Atlantic bubble that they were promised does not come to light, he said. 

Families have been split apart for months and months and months and looking for that to finally come to an end today. And then at the last minute, the 11th hour, having that dashed? Extremely, extremely disappointing.

He said he wants the governments of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to come up with a plan together so that everyone feels they're being treated equally and fairly. 

It's the fact that they're not collaborating and working together to develop a plan that's acceptable to both the provinces. That's the disappointing thing to me, Kogon said. We want to see a resolution.

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Elizabeth McMillan (new window) · CBC News with  files from CBC's Information Morning, Paul Palmeter and Brett Ruskin.

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