Local legend has it that years ago, when the border crossing at Hyder, Alaska and Stewart, B.C. was first placed under the watchful eye of Canadian officials, a hardcore Hyderite protested by blaring the tune “North to Alaska” over and over again from speakers in front of his shop – the first shop in when you cross into American territory, right beside the border office.
North to Alaska? You’ll be staying overnight.
“The border guards, really it bothered them, they got quite annoyed with it,” said Stewart resident Angela Brand Danuser, who remembers the nuisance-y bit of peaceful protest. “He set up a loudspeaker… just blasted it all the time. It was funny.”
She doesn’t know how long the protest went on for, but she knows that if that resident was still around – he died and his shop is now closed – he’d be making noise about the changes set to take place at the Stewart/Hyder border crossing.
Beginning tomorrow, April 1, the Canadian Border Services Agency has directed that the border crossing between Hyder and Stewart be shut overnight, blocking access between the two close-knit communities – despite consistent outcry from residents, businesses, and politicians on both sides of the border, who first learned about the planned reduction in hours a month ago and say the planned closure is not only a safety and security risk, but is bad for the economy.
A metal gate has already been erected at the crossing in anticipation of the changes with the expectation it will be closed for the first time at midnight tonight.
“It’s already up, they’ve got a sign on it that says closed in both French and English,” said Stewart city councillor Sylvia Alderton Goulet, of the gate. “They’re actually locked in their town.”
That gate isn’t a good sign, she said, noting that while the communities have been doing everything they can think of to put pressure on the federal government and border services to change its mind, nothing seems to be sticking.
“It’s hard to fight the government, especially the feds,” she said. “We’re giving it our best. We’re still going to fight them but I don’t know what we’re going to fight them with.”
To that end, residents of Stewart and Hyder are planning to meet at the border at 7:30 a.m. for a peaceful protest before the gate opens at 8 a.m.
Who knows, maybe someone will play “North to Alaska”.