What’s the Point of Point Roberts?

"Under the law of “No Takebacksies,” this 12.65-square-kilometre scrap of land has stayed attached to Tsawwassen, but part of the U.S., ever since."

August 14, 2018

When America and Britain decided in 1818 that the 49th parallel would serve as the crisp dividing line between their nations—much like two sitcom roommates in an argument—they received a sobering lesson in the value of “measure twice, cut once”: li’l Point Roberts was left dangling off Canadian shores, disconnected from the rest of Washington state. Under the law of “No Takebacksies,” this 12.65-square-kilometre scrap of land has stayed attached to Tsawwassen, but part of the U.S., ever since.

Now flush with Canadian immigrants who set up summer cottages and then forgot to leave, Point Roberts has 1,300 residents, according to the latest census report, though that number swells to 4,500 in the summer. And those stats don’t even include the regular stream of border-hopping day trippers who come to stock up on cheap gas and alcohol and to feast on illegal-in-B.C. medium-rare burgers, which, as science shows, taste delicious expressly because of the thrilling risk of contracting E. coli. (Or should I say contracting FREEDOM?!)


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The separation from the rest of Whatcom County by the pesky ocean means it’s a 23-mile drive through Canada to get to Blaine, Washington. The kids of Point Roberts take a bus for the border-crossing journey each day, up through Tsawwassen and back down again to their school on the U.S. mainland. American citizens also have to head to Bellingham for health treatments—the peninsula has no hospital, doctor, dentist or even open-minded veterinarian (technically, humans are animals, right?). Some call it a gated community because the border is the only way to get in: no felons allowed. Rumour has it that the town is home to about 50 people from the U.S.’s Witness Protection Program because of this high-security feature, and while I can’t find any way to confirm this, isn’t the very absence of proof, proof in and of itself? Think about it.

Point Roberts may be small, but there’s a bustling community. Notable residents have included former Canucks coach John Tortorella, and Heart’s Roger Fisher and Nancy Wilson, unless those are fake identities given to them by the U.S. government. There’s the busy marina and a cottage cottage-building industry. And reporting on it all is the All Point Bulletin, delivering hard-hitting journalism (“Tide is low”) and answering burning questions from residents like “Has the theme for the 4th of July 2018 parade been announced yet?” Sources say no, but feel free to use my personal suggestion: “Undercooked Hamburgers: The Taste of Liberty.”

Got a question for City Informer?
stacey.mclachlan@vanmag.com

 

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