Several people with out-of-province licence plates have received a hostile reception in Port Alberni during the COVID-19 pandemic. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

Several people with out-of-province licence plates have received a hostile reception in Port Alberni during the COVID-19 pandemic. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

Dual Canadian-U.S. citizens face hostile reception on Vancouver Island

People asked to report suspicious licence plates to Canada Border Services Agency

Some out-of-province people are feeling nervous about the hostile reception they’ve received in Port Alberni on Vancouver Island.

As COVID-19 cases rise in the United States, some British Columbians are worried about out-of-province travellers bringing the virus with them. Health officials in B.C. say that the Canada-U.S. border is expected to remain closed to non-essential travel until at least late August.

But one young woman staying in Port Alberni, a dual Canada and U.S. citizen, says she has had people harassing her and compromising her privacy on social media due to her U.S. licence plates. She has requested to remain anonymous, as RCMP have asked her not to give out any personal details for her safety.

She moved to Port Alberni in mid-May to help out a cousin, but has been in Canada since last summer, staying with family as she goes through the process of a painful divorce. Her car, which still had U.S. plates, was parked in Port Alberni for about a month as she was in the process of having it junked. She became worried when she noticed multiple people taking pictures of the car.

She has since gotten rid of her car, but is still worried because photos of her have been circulating on Facebook.

“I called the RCMP, and they told me [my car] had been reported several times,” she said. “They had already checked with the border crossing and confirmed that I had been in Canada since before COVID hit.”

The RCMP also warned her to “be safe” and keep her phone on her at all times.

“This put me on high alert,” she said.

She said she was surprised by the unwelcome reception from her home country.

“I thought coming back to Canada would be like the hug I needed,” she said. “My original plan was to stay here for a little while and then move back to the States.”

Then COVID-19 hit, and she is now stuck as the Canada-U.S. borders remain closed.

“I’m immuno-compromised myself, so COVID is very scary for me,” she said. “I didn’t expect the animosity. I don’t believe all U.S. licence plates are tied to ‘evil Americans’ who are here to spread the virus. I think a lot of people are in the same situation I’m in. I don’t think it helps when people are being unkind to each other right now.”

She is not the only one who feels unsafe in Port Alberni. Another woman with U.S. licence plates says she has been confronted at multiple locations in town, including gas stations and the Quality Foods parking lot. She is a Canadian citizen and U.S. resident who moved to Port Alberni temporarily in March to take care of her ailing grandmother.

“I actually found a note on my truck saying the cops have my licence number,” she said. “Once while I was driving with my grandmother, somebody flipped us the bird. It’s gotten to the point where I get nervous when I get in the car every day.”

With the borders closed, she doesn’t know how much longer she will be in Canada, but says she is starting to fear for her safety.

“I wish people would be a little bit nicer,” she said. “It’s not like people don’t have a right to be here just because they don’t have B.C. plates.”

Port Alberni city councillor Cindy Solda expressed her concern for some of the “plate-hate” during a meeting of council on Monday, July 13. She explained that she met a family from Alberta that was visiting Port Alberni with the intention of moving to the community.

“These people were looking at houses,” she explained. “In the meantime, the neighbours are taking pictures of their licence plates. It turned [them] off moving to the community. I understand we’re all scared of COVID,” she added. “But we need to have more communication and there’s more reasons why people are in the community.”

READ MORE: B.C. man with Alberta plates gets car keyed and aggressive note

Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions pointed out during the meeting that travel between provinces is currently allowed.

“I know there’s been a lot of concern about the United States licence plates that people are seeing, and I would encourage people to follow proper process,” she said. “It’s not our issue to go out and solve on our own.”

Even B.C.’s top doctor, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said during a press briefing earlier this month that British Columbians need to “take a step back” and realize they may not know why people with out-of-province, or even U.S., licence plates are here. There are numerous reasons American travellers may be in Canada, including work requirements and dual nationality.

If you are concerned about a traveller in the Alberni Valley, report it to the Canada Border Services Agency’s reporting line at 1-888-502-9060 and pass on the licence plate number and where you saw them.

If the CBSA has concerns, the RCMP in the area will be tasked to check on the visitor.



elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Interior Health update. File photo.
86 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

The new deaths are from Heritage Square, a long-term care facility in Vernon

Sickle Point as seen from the air. (Kaleden Community Association - David Mai)
Second town hall for Sickle Point on Jan. 27

The first town hall was cut short due to technical issues

Nate Brown photo
Okanagan-Shuswap says goodbye sunshine, hello winter

Temperatures are forecasted to drop by mid-next week

The facility in Summerland has 112 long-term care beds. Interior Health funds 75 of the beds. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Six more months for temporary Summerland Seniors Village adminstrator

The temporary administrator was appointed following site visits and concerns from Interior Health

President Donald Trump speaks to the media before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021 in Washington. The President is traveling to Texas. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Black Press Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

In case you missed it, here’s what made waves throughout the week

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

A COVID-19 outbreak at Vernon's Heritage Square long-term care home has claimed seven people. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Two more COVID-19 deaths at Vernon care home

Heritage Square has now lost seven people due to the outbreak

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

(Big White Ski Resort photo)
13 more cases of COVID-19 tied to Big White Mountain cluster

This brings the total case count to 175, of which 32 cases are active

RCMP on scene at a home on Sylvania Cres. (Phil McLachlan /Capital News/FILE)
Two Kelowna men arrested after Rutland home invasion

Two Kelowna men, including a prolific offender, facing slew of potential charges

Most Read