Here are a few tips for crossing the border on foot
This article is intended as a humourous piece about the stereotype that Canada is an easy country to get into without proper documentation. It is not intended as advice or anything other than humour.
Fort Kent [Public Domain]
The New Brunswick-Maine border has caused more than a few problems between Britain, Canada, and the USA. A strange little war, the Aroostook War, took place in 1838 and 1839, where a long running dispute over where exactly the boundary between Maine and New Brunswick should lie came to a boil. Militias were called into action but never saw combat and diplomacy won the day by 1842. The only casualty was a farmer on the US side who was killed by a stray bullet during post-war celebrations. Nowadays the less inhabited stretches of the border are heating up again as marijuana and designer drugs bound for Boston, New York, and Philadelphia are smuggled across from Canada. So here are a few tips for crossing the border on foot from Maine into New Brunswick.
St. Croix River [Public Domain]
- Build a shelter on the Maine side with black spruce branches. Light a campfire and wait, just like the hemp growers did in the Bates Motel series. If no one comes and arrests you or takes you down for intruding on their territory, put out the fire and head for the border. Walk quietly.
- Bring a kayak and pretend you’re with a group on a kayaking excursion, and you got lost on the St. Croix River. And that is why you’ve dragged yourself and your kayak up onto the banks on the Canadian side of the river. Technically, you are not really on foot when you cross the border, but you may have to do some walking to the customs building. Claim refugee status because of your cold and wet condition.
The Eastern Townships is a corner of Southeast Quebec that feels like an extension of New England sometimes. But do not be fooled, you are very much in Quebec and in Canada, as any US border guard will let you know. For example, on one side you have Derby Line (that’s a town), Vermont. And on the Canadian side sits Stanstead, Quebec. Sometimes the border goes right down the middle of the street; in the case of Canusa Street, the northern side of the street is in Canada, and on the southern side the houses are in the USA. But even better, the Haskell Free Library and Opera House, which was built in 1904, sits right on top the border. The books in the library are mostly in Canada while the librarians are in the US. In the Opera House, the stage is in Canada while most of the audience sits in the USA. American draft dodgers used to meet with their families at the Opera House back a few decades ago.
Stanstead [Public Domain]
Things have changed from the days when neighbours would cross the border at will. Homeland Security has a mission of operational control of the border. Crossing the border on foot down any side street that is not the official crossing at Main Street is now a little trickier, as you will likely be observed or even filmed. But you can still try it. Here are a few suggestions:
- Wait for a performance of Suds at the Haskell Opera House and rent a motel room in Derby Line. Dress as The Washer Repairman. You will need a tool belt and toolbox as well as coveralls. Stride purposefully into the Opera House, wait for the performance to end, and take your bows on the stage in Canada with the real Washer Repairman. Hopefully they will think you are just an ambitious understudy. Join the cast as they reach out and shake hands with the audience. Jump enthusiastically down from the stage and run up the aisle into the USA and shake Granny’s hand. Gracefully bounce back into Canadian territory where you rejoin your colleagues up on stage.
- Strap your best mountain bike to your roof rack and drive to Vermont. In full cycling gear head to the Beebe Plain – Beebe Border Crossing in Derby Line. Check in at the border crossing and cycle down Canusa Street heading east. Keep right and you will still be in the USA, especially if you hug the sidewalk. When the street bends north you will cross into Canada so come to a complete stop. Get off your bike and wheel around to the other side of the street. You are now in Canada. Get back on your mountain bike and cycle west through Canadian territory.
Akwesasne was founded in the mid-18th century as a reserve south of Montreal. It now straddles the Quebec, Ontario, and US borders. In the last few decades, it has been a focus of First Nation – specifically Mohawk – protests over their treaty rights to duty free shopping. For example cigarettes, lots and lots of cigarettes. So many that they are willing to generously share some with you, at a very reasonable price. The latest border conflict in 2009 was mostly centered on the Canadian side, but New York police cooperated with their Canadian colleagues by shutting down their side of the border, in conjunction with the shut-down of the Canadian side of the Akwesasne border. Here are a few ideas for crossing on foot at Akwesasne.
- Drive to the Akwesasne Casino in Hogansburg, New York. Take your winnings and convince a local councillor to let you rent a home on the reserve and do odd jobs for a while. Long enough to be granted Mohawk status. Then walk over to the Canadian side of the reserve. Go fishing, help load up a few speedboats with cartons of cigarettes, and then walk back to the US side.
- Wait for the next border conflict to erupt. Head to Akwesasne. Buy a big bandana and wrap your face in it, up past your nostrils. Wear aviator shades and a worn canvas fishing hat – military green if possible. A black T-shirt emblazoned with a militant aphorism is good. Head to the protest. Stride angrily from one side of the border over to the other side, and then back into the USA again.
At the other end of the continent, the B.C. – Washington State border has many lonesome stretches that tempt smugglers running guns and cocaine into Canada and West Coast weed into the USA. The Cascade mountain range reaches north into B.C. and the border at this point contains a few trails known to those smugglers. Lonesome stretches of farmland also beckon. Hence a few ideas on crossing the border on foot from British Columbia into Washington.
- Get the most expensive hiking gear money can buy; it helps if you look like an advertising executive or a venture capitalist on a weekend getaway. Do not fill your space-age backpack with heat-sealed plastic bags of marijuana. Head to Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in Washington State. Hike into Liumchen Ecological Reserve, just south of Chilliwack BC. This has been tried in real life, but going the other way. It might just work in your favour because will going the opposite way of most smugglers. If you do run into people with large backpacks, don’t get too chatty.
- Head to Seattle and look for a good costume store. Buy a good cow costume or get one made. Head 15 km east of the Huntingdon, BC – Sumas, Washington border crossing. This is peaceful farmland country. Dress in your large cow costume and try jumping one of the worn out fences that stand between you and Canada. You will need a very convincing costume and a collaborator or two. Practice beforehand.
Riley Haas has been a leading expert since 2011 on immigration matters, with hundreds of publications online. Published author of three books about political philosophy, the Beatles and the Toronto Maple Leafs, respectively. BA from Bishop’s University, MA from McMaster University. You follow Riley on Substack https://rileyhaas.substack.com.