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What is life like when you live in Canada, work in Washington and the border's closed?

Suzanne Smith, owner of clothing store Betty Be Good Boutique.
Courtesy of Suzanne Smith
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Suzanne Smith, owner of clothing store Betty Be Good Boutique.

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the U.S.-Canada border being closed to all but commercial and essential travel. So how does that impact a Canadian who not only lives near the border but also runs two stores in Whatcom County?

As the owner of Betty Be Good, two women’s clothing stores in Lynden and Birch Bay, Suzanne Smith is considered an essential traveler. She lives two blocks north of the border in suburban Vancouver. And she’s also between both the Peace Arch and Pacific Highway crossing points.  

Using the NEXUS express lane for pre-cleared travelers, it used to sometimes take just minutes to cross the border. 

But these days, even with an 80 percent drop in border crossing traffic, it takes her a lot longer. Instead of asking her about what commercial goods she’s bringing in, Canadian officials are asking questions about safety and health.

"And the questioning is lengthy. You know, we used to be through the border with NEXUS quite quickly. Now if there's a few cars in front of me, it's a half-hour wait," Smith explains.

Smith crosses the border upwards of twice a week. She can only travel to and from her stores. If she wants to see family members who live in Washington, they have to visit her at work.

Since the start of the pandemic, Smith’s business has decreased about 40 percent. But she’s been able to keep her seven American employees fully employed.

She says she can’t wait until the border reopens – but not until health concerns are fully addressed.

“You would think that I sit here and I can't wait for the borders to open back up, and I'm very excited," Smith said. "But I don't want them to open up prematurely. I think that we need to protect both sides. And if that means that the border stay closed a little bit longer than I'm in favor of that."

Earlier this week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said now is not the time to talk details about the border reopening as COVID-19 is still a serious risk.