Open Border!

20 May 2021 – Well, visually open.

We’re down in Boundary Bay, walking first along the dyke and then on firm sand, through grasses and standing pools, toward the low-tide waters of Strait of Georgia.

Out there is one of the more dipsy-doodle stretches of the Canadian-USA border, jittering its way among the off-shore islands.

Those hazy islands straight ahead? In the USA.

That dark finger of mainland intruding from the right? In Canada.


The very tip is across the border, leaving its town of Point Roberts in splendid, all-American isolation.

Like I said — dipsy-doodle.

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  1. Whoever made that border decision was rather pedantic or possibly warlike (we had better hold on to this little piece in case those nasty Canadians decide to invade … actually, Trump might have tried using it for a staging ground, so not that far from reality 😉 ). The story of our border is an interesting one; there were arguments about the Alaska panhandle well into the 20th century.

    • Some of us would still like to argue the Panhandle decision!

      • Does seem like a land grab.

      • Oh yes, big time, but land grab is the norm with border drawing so nothing surprising. What’s galling (for us) is how this particular e.g. of power politics played out. It was decided by a tripartite commission, with Britain, the USA and Canada (still a colony) at the table: obviously the USA voted for the panhandle and Canada voted against, so GB had the deciding vote — and voted against its own colony. An act of brutal self-interest: the colony was powerless & without leverage; the USA was a rising power & had increasing leverage. Better to side with the Yanks! So we’re not pissed at the USA for acting in its own interests, but pissed at Great Britain. for not even pretending to care about ours. Sigh.

      • Wow. I did not know that those were the circumstances. I had always presumed that US was just trying to get as much as it could. I didn’t know that it was a tripartite situation with UK siding with US for political reasons. More likely, political jealousy reasons: the US was always the the big one that got away. Thanks for the explanation.

      • Of course the US was trying to get as much as it could, that’s what Great Powers do! An on-going theme of our history is being small neighbour to a big expansionist presence. (One of my high school history books included a Punch cartoon of Uncle Sam explaining the Monroe Doctrine: “It means, everything everywhere belongs to us.”) We moved the capital of Canada from Kingston, perilously close to the USA, safely inland to Ottawa; we threw a railway across the country, partly for other reasons but also to try to reinforce the line between the countries; we beefed up the North West Mounted Police presence during the Klondike gold rush… (Did you know the British burning of the White House was a retaliatory act, not unprovoked aggression? It was in response to the earlier 4-day invasion of York, now Toronto, by the USA, during which invasion the American troops had burned down our parliament building, on Parliament St.) Yet, for all that, it’s also true that for a very long time the proud and accurate cliché about the Canada/US border was that it was ‘the longest undefended border in the world.”

      • I am much more aware of the circumstances surrounding the moving of the capital, York and the US White House (War of 1812). US still claims to have “won” it, although they really got their butts kicked. They were fortunate that UK was otherwise occupied by Napoleon or it might have been a disaster. I totally agree about the “undefended border.”

      • Our great good luck was that the indigenous nations sided with us and not with the American invaders — otherwise, almost certainly a very different outcome. They got little credit at the time (oh, what a surprise), but now get major & well-deserved credit.

      • Oh yes, very true. Reconciliation is going to take a long time, but at least there’s a start.

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    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

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