When the US and Canadian governments decided the border between our two countries, a few places got left on the “wrong” side of the line. On the west coast, Point Roberts is one of those places.
Image Courtesy pointswithacrew.com
Welcome to Brain Junk. I’m Trace Kerr, and I’m Amy Barton and this is a Brain Storm.
AB: We’re going to do a geography lesson today. Yay. Today we’re talking about exclaves. I don’t know if that’s the right tone of voice for a geography lesson.
TK: Did you say exclaves?
AB: Yes, I did.
TK: Oh, okay.
AB: Probably the opposite of an enclave, but I did not bother to Google enclave or find a dictionary. An exclave is a portion of territory of one state completely surrounded by territory of another.
TK: Ah, okay. So there’s like a town of the United States that’s in Canada.
AB: That’s the one.
TK: Oh my gosh, is it?
AB: Now, I’m a little surprised. Trace is from the coast, everybody. Well, I say the coast. Anybody who lives in Seattle is not on the coast west to by five to me is the coast or somewhere within like 20 miles of I5 you’re the coast, everybody.
TK: That’s true.
AB: That side of the mountains, pretty much anything on the other side of the pass to me, that’s true. So this is an area that dates back to 1846 when the UK and the u s settled the Pacific northwest American Canadian border dispute. But you didn’t know that was a thing that sounds fancy. There was a treaty and they pretty much got their ruler out and just shot line across Washington State. So 49th parallel. That’s us. They did not pay attention to the little bloop of land that is out in the sound. And that comes down from Canada is not connected to the US at all.
AB: And so they’re looking at that. They’re like, Huh, well, you guys can still have that. It’s fine. So we have it and there’s discussion over the years on and off repeatedly, like this doesn’t work super great. What do we think now it’s ours. It just stays ours.
TK: So what is this place called because…
AB: Oh! Point Roberts, I’m sorry. Point Roberts, Washington, everybody. So Washington State, we’re in the upper left. The population as of 2010 was about 1300 folks in the summer. They get up to about 4,500. Um Point Roberts is out in Boundary Bay, not attached to the US at all. You have to drive Bellingham drive to Blaine, Washington and then you’d head up over and around.
TK: Got It.
AB: Cross into Canada and back out of Canada into the US again, it’s about a 40 minute drive.
AB: No ferry system.
AB: No. You could take your private boat and there’s no ferry that goes from there.
AB: Oh No. So because 1500 people maybe no, they don’t get a ferry.
TK: That’s true.
AB: And infrastructure is a little challenging because their seat of government is in Washington State proper over in Whatcom County and they’re a bit of an afterthought, it sounds like as far as they worked for I think two years to get a stoplight because it’s like you’re so far away to represent the needs you have to prove and they’re so little. They’re school children. There’s a k through three school in 2017 there where students and one nice teacher who taught a k three Combo class.
TK: Oh No,
AB: No, no bell schedule though.
TK: But what then, so if you’re in high school, are you busing?
AB: Yup. You’re busing through Point Roberts into Canada, back into the US to Blaine, and I meant to call today and call the school secretary and make friends and say, what is it like when they’re late for school? Do they just throw the towel in?
TK: Oh my gosh.
AB: Drive to get to school. I think I’d be like, where’s the closest private school in Canada? And we’ll just, hey kids, we’re going to homeschool.
TK: Oh God, yeah, I’ve done that. No thank you. No. Wow.
AB: They have a couple border access places. They’ve got a Boundary Bay crossing the land crossing. Just one. They’ve got one small airport. They have a large marina, but you need a vessel of your own to get there.
TK: Wow. Telecommunications.
AB: Oh yeah. Until 1988 the phone numbers were Canadian, so you could call Canada, but you could not call your us family over in Blaine or in anywhere. And so in 1988 they fixed that problem. They gave them their own two oh six area code with the nine four five exchange, so they could no longer call Canada for free and no longer call everybody over in Blaine, in Bellingham for free. They could call each other and Point Roberts for free.
TK: Oh my gosh.
AB: This persisted until 1995 so 88 to 95 they could call nobody but their neighbors for free. But in 1995 they become part of the three six.
TK: Oh Woo. Oh that is, wow.
AB: That’s practically barbed wire fence. Phones would feel like, right.
TK: Well you know, I didn’t even think about like police fire, um, water power, all that.
AB: Yeah, because Canada and it is international. If you go to Canada for emergency services, you pay whatever your insurance company charges for international incidents. So these guys go to the grocery store and maybe it’s an international incident if they have a problem. Yeah, you could have an international incidents two miles from your house. Now the one when they have just lots of wins, it’s beautiful there. It’s western Washington.
AB: Our cost of living there was a little cheaper in 2012 the groceries with 30% cheaper. So the Canadians kind of fueled that part of their economy a little bit. They’d come in and liked to buy gas. Was a buck cheaper. We didn’t have a 12% tax that Canada does and a US companies will ship to point Roberts. And so if you’re in Canada and you want something from us, Amazon at that point it would be better for you to drive into point Roberts and have it shipped to there instead of paying international shipping. So there’s some wins.
TK: So their post office is doing some rockin business.
AB: They’re probably still wearing furs and no shoes.
TK: No, no, no.
AB: Um, the one fun thing that I read that caught my attention on this is that because you have to pass through an international to get into Point Roberts, it’s popular for the witness protection program, which for you not in the US that’s for people who have some way need to leave their, oh, how do I describe this? Let’s assume we’ll watch enough TV.
TK: Well, if you were to testify against someone who would be a threat to you, if they found out where you lived and things like that, we give people a new identity and move them someplace else.
AB: Thank you. Um, a couple of different articles referenced like 50 people in this town that are in the witness protection program. And that’s what the government said too. They’re like, I don’t know, that doesn’t well, and who would want people to know that?
TK: Right? Hey, we hide all our witnesses up there in that little town.
AB: It is a great idea because you have to cross an international border or approached by sea.
TK: So it does seem like a great plan, but if it’s really truly happening, they shouldn’t be ever to know that.
AB:I know-a lot of people named Jim though that might be shifty. So that’s Point. Roberts I really loved one more thing. Um, I read about the crime stats there. Uh, recent crime theft in one article that I read was a theft of five lavender plants from the post office and that commander. So that’s Point Roberts, everybody.
TK: It’s beautiful in the summer. Go visit.
AB: Yea, you will need your passport.
TK: Oh, we’re on Facebook and Instagram as brainjunkpodcasts. We’ve got lots of good pictures and articles. So you should check that out and you can find us on Twitter as @mybrainjunk, Amy and I will catch you next time when we share more of everything you never knew you wanted to know, and I guarantee you will not be bored.
AB: An exclave is a portion or territory you might want to do that again.
TK: I just punched my keyboard. I’m sorry. I was like,
AB: It didn’t even fight back.