GRAND FORKS — As a lifelong resident of the Northwest Angle, Rick McKeever likely has crossed the Canadian border hundreds of times traveling to and from his home, that oddity of U.S. geography surrounded on three sides by Canada and cut off from the rest of Minnesota by some 40 miles of Lake of the Woods.
So it was with some surprise on Easter Sunday, April 4, that McKeever and his wife, Pat, were turned away at the Canadian border north of Warroad, Minn., while trying to get to their home on the Northwest Angle mainland to spend Easter with their family after a few weeks of traveling around the southern U.S.
Getting to the Northwest Angle by road requires traveling about 40 miles of remote Manitoba highway.
“We’d been gone since the 25th of January riding around the States, and I guess the rules have changed since we left,” McKeever, 71, said Monday, April 5. “I wasn’t sure that it was for everyone, but anyway, it was for us.”
The snag the McKeevers encountered Sunday results from a Canada rule that took effect Monday, Feb. 15, requiring that everyone entering the country by land test negative for COVID-19 within three days before entering Canada. As outlined on the Government of Canada website, a rapid antigen test isn’t sufficient, although a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test is among the acceptable molecular tests that Canada will accept, the website states.
Getting test results back can take 24 to 48 hours.
An officer from the Canada Border Services Agency in Sprague, Manitoba, on Monday referred queries about the travel policy for Northwest Angle residents to the agency’s media relations office, which was closed for the Easter holiday.
The Canada Consulate office in Minneapolis didn’t respond to email queries about the Northwest Angle situation but provided links to Canada’s pandemic border-crossing policies on the government website. Throughout the pandemic, permanent residents of the Northwest Angle have been able to enter Canada en route to U.S. destinations such as Roseau and Warroad, Minn., for groceries, health care or other services deemed essential, but those generally are short trips.
The McKeevers’ encounter is yet another example of the frustration Northwest Angle residents have felt since the U.S.-Canada border closed to nonessential travel in March 2020 at the outset of the pandemic.
McKeever, who owns Young’s Bay Resort at the Angle, said he and his wife both have been vaccinated for COVID-19, but negative test results remain a requirement for entering Canada, according to the Government of Canada website.
“We were going to try and get home for Easter dinner with my son. Of course, Grandma hasn’t seen four grandchildren for two months,” McKeever said. “She’s pretty upset about the whole deal, but anyway, we survived. We’re just kind of waiting on something to change.”
For the time being, McKeever says he and his wife will probably just stay in Warroad. They have some dental and medical appointments coming up, McKeever said, and he leaves with his son and grandson for a turkey hunting trip to Nebraska on April 15.
“We’re going to survive this,” he said. “We're just going to hang out here until I get back from turkey hunting.”
Despite the thwarted Easter plans, McKeever is taking a pragmatic view of the situation. He said he doesn’t fault the local Canada Border Services Agency officers for a policy that comes from Ottawa and is out of their control.
“Their hands are tied,” he said. “But it seems so silly that one day we can drive all the way through because we have our Angle Inlet address on our driver’s licenses, and now, we can’t, even though we’ve had our shots,” McKeever said. “The 40-minute ride through rural Manitoba, we probably wouldn’t meet one single vehicle.
“It’s silly, but here we are.”