PLATTSBURGH — The Rev. Nicoline Guerrier learned she was able to cross the Canada-U.S. Border at the very end of July 2021.
It was a long haul for the Montreal-based minister of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Plattsburgh.
UNDERSTANDING THE IMPACT
Until she was able to cross in July, her last crossing was when she returned home on March 11, 2020, just before the border closure.
“I think the experience was that it was only when we all started to being able to see each other again, when I say see each other, it's see each outside in face-to-face contact, which was me and members of the congregation,” Guerrier said.
“I think it was only then that we really understood how much we had been impacted by this imposed separation, the border closing.”
Guerrier said that's a tiny drop in all the stories of separation that people have had to undergo during the pandemic.
“It's really been this sense of something that needs healing that has come out of this,” she said.
“The feeling about the need for healing is so strong that we actually ended up deciding to create a healing series of worship services all through the fall because we seem to be very present to the ways in which this pandemic time has broken many things or impacted or hurt many of our relationships.
“So on the one hand, it's like wow, we can see each other and be together again outdoors.”
Guerrier only sees people outside, and even outside, masks are worn if social distancing is not possible.
“That power of relationship is central to everything, which explains when we're back together again we realized how virtual is just not the same,” she said.
“The energy that comes out of being together face-to-face has really been wonderful rediscovery. There is a lot of celebration, for good reason, about the border reopening.
“And at the same time, some members of our congregation have divided themselves into different squads to support their social justice commitments in terms of how they can live out their faith,” she said.
“And one of them is an Immigration Justice Squad. We're worried that just more headlines about border reopening will send misinformation to all the asylum seekers that are thinking like, 'Oh, the border is loosening up between Canada and the United States.'"
More than 58,000 irregular asylum seekers have entered Canada since 2017 from unauthorized entry points such as Roxham Road in Champlain, according to a December 2020 article by Amanda Coletta in the Washington Post.
"Many people are coming to Plattsburgh hoping to seek asylum in Canada, and then end up stuck in Plattsburgh and needing the support of people at the congregation and other people who are working to support people in transit," Guerrier said.
“So I think our excitement about the border opening is tempered by this is going to provoke another wave of asylum seekers even though that's not what the message is about.
“The message is about vaccinated Canadians being able to enter the U.S. People hear what they want to hear.”
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