But the modern era finally caught up to Stanstead last week, when the RCMP closed the last unguarded border station to cars in the town of about 3,000.
Police say the unmanned Church St. crossing, which has been fenced-off with a row of flower pots, was closed because of an increase in criminal activity and illegal immigration along the span.
“We consulted with the town and with our partners at the U.S. Border Patrol and everyone seems to be fine with it,” said Constable Eric Gasse of the RCMP.
“Well, everyone except for the drug smugglers.”
Two similar crossings, on Ball St. and Lee St., were closed in 2009. In addition to sharing streets, fields, forests and other land-based access points, Derby Line and Stanstead also rest along the shores of Lake Memphremagog. The lake is heavily patrolled by both Canadian and United States border guards.
Gasse said the latest closing was also done to prevent the relatively common occurrence of tourists accidentally crossing the border illegally.
“I had a friend who accidentally crossed into the U.S. when he was looking for a house. He ended up being caught and fined $5,000 for that mistake,” said Flanders, who lives just a couple of hundred metres from the border. “It’s silly, when you think about it.”
In the aftermath of 9/11 the coziness that prevailed throughout town made way for caution, with fences being erected along the border and regular Homeland Security helicopter patrols overhead.
“We used to know the border guards by name because they were locals from Derby Line,” said Dale Elliot, whose wife works in Vermont. “They would just barely get out of their chair. Now it’s more questions, people being searched and just a really impersonal experience. I guess that’s the price of security.”
No; it’s the price of post-9/11 American government paranoia, and the increasing American police state. (Not to mention ours up here in Canada, too, for that matter – but that’s largely a response to theirs…)
It’s called “security theater“, folks.