Our view: People of the Northwest Angle need help, and they need it now

Minnesota’s federal delegates are weighing in on the continuing crisis on the U.S.-Canada border in northwest Minnesota. Sen. Amy Klobuchar on Friday became the latest.

Herald pull quote, 4/10/21

EDITOR'S NOTE: This editorial was updated the morning of Saturday, April 10, to reflect the news that Sen. Amy Klobuchar on Friday joined other federal delegates calling for action to ease restrictions on the U.S.-Canada border.

Minnesota’s federal delegates are weighing in on the continuing crisis on the U.S.-Canada border in northwest Minnesota.

U.S. Reps. Michelle Fischbach and Pete Stauber, a pair of Republicans, organized a meeting in International Falls that drew some 400 attendees overall – about 50 in person and the rest watching a live broadcast – and raised awareness of maddening new developments that are further restricting a handful of Minnesota residents from coming and going to their homes.

Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., is urging the U.S. State Department to step in. In a letter to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Smith said “the Canadian government has severely restricted cross-border travel, and the uniform policy that treats all cross-border travel equally creates major problems for exclaves like the Northwest Angle.

“The effect of these policies is to prohibit Americans from traveling to their homes, and they have starved tourism-reliant business owners of their customer base,” Smith wrote in her letter. “By ignoring the unique circumstance of this community, Canadian officials have placed undue hardship on American citizens.”


And now, Sen. Amy Klobuchar has sent a letter to the U.S. State Department, and also the Department of Homeland Security, requesting action. She urges Blinken and Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to work with Canadian officials to come up with "common-sense solutions that will allow for residents and workers to access their homes and places of work while maintaining the necessary precautions during the pandemic."

The delegates’ efforts are, we assume, appreciated.

Perhaps some believe the issue too small, and affecting too few people, to care much about it. The trouble stems from Canadian travel restrictions and the unique patch of U.S. soil known as the Northwest Angle, bordered on three sides by Canada and cut off from the rest of Minnesota by Lake of the Woods. The people – fewer than 200 – who live there are U.S. citizens, but their ability to travel is limited by Canada’s strict COVID-related restrictions.

The border has been closed to nonessential travel for more than a year, but Angle residents have been able to pass through Canada for essential services in border communities such as Roseau and Warroad, Minn. However, in February, Canada implemented another rule: Anyone crossing into the country by road has been required to present a negative PCR COVID-19 test.

Canada Border Services Agency officers recently have imposed the restriction on some Northwest Angle residents trying to return to their homes. Essentially, it means Angle residents are trapped on that small section of U.S. land; if they leave, they run the risk of not being allowed to return to their homes.

Fischbach and Stauber deserve credit for organizing the recent International Falls meeting; Canadian Members of Parliament Marcus Powlowski and Dan Mazier attended via Zoom and were able to hear firsthand accounts of how Canada’s restrictions are inhibiting basic essential travel while also strangling businesses in the area.

And the letters by Smith and Klobuchar will, we hope, open more dialogue about the issue and result in some sort of reaction. Blinken needs to investigate this concerning issue and get Canadian officials to the table to devise alternative rules for Angle residents.

There aren’t many residents in the Angle, but those who live there deserve fair treatment and, when trouble arises, action from their elected representatives. These people need help, and they need it now.

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