Canadian Border Anomalies

On April 3, 2009 · 7 Comments

I’ve discussed border anomalies between the United States and Canada before. Previously I focused on little areas of the U.S. separated from the rest of the country such as Point Roberts, the Northwest Angle and Alburg, Vermont. Here I give equal time to the Canadians by outlining a couple of instances where citizens of that great northland country will be inconvenienced by the border instead.

St. Régis, Québec



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The border between Canada and the United States follows the North 45th parallel between the St. Lawrence and Connecticut Rivers, the U.S. states of New York and Vermont. There’s a slight surveying error which I’ll mention but not elaborate upon in this entry, but think N45 latitude and basically a straight line and you’ll get the picture. It creates the same condition as the Point Roberts example except in mirror image. If a visitor wishes to drive to St. Régis, Québec from elsewhere in Canada, she needs to leave Canada, enter the United States, and then drive back into Canada.

These types of situations sometimes present themselves when two nations agree upon a straight line rather than a geographic feature to represent a boundary. In this instance the St. Lawrence River blocks land access between St. Régis and the remainder of Canada.

St. Régis is part of the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation as is the land immediately south and contiguous to it in the United States. I would imagine there’s probably considerably less hassle getting into St. Régis than Point Roberts (where one has to clear customs at a formal border station) even though it’s in Canada. While I’ve not been there on the ground to confirm this, I would imagine the border would be quite porous due to affinity relationships between members of the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation regardless of the irrelevant borders established by people of European descent.

Another noteworthy feature — unrelated but still interesting — is that this stranded bit of land is surprisingly close to the tripoint between the the State of New York and the Provinces of Ontario and Québec. Time to find a boat!

Campobello Island, New Brunswick



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This is an interesting border anomaly only because someone built a bridge to the island in 1962. Prior to that it was just another Canadian island in Passamaquoddy Bay. It just happened that the bridge spaned from Lubec, Maine (the easternmost point in the contiguous United States, yet another geo-oddity for you) so it now involves an international border crossing. In contrast, no bridge reaches Campobello Island from any other point in Canada, so once again if one wishes to drive to the island it involves a trip through the Unites States and a crossing of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Bridge.

Well, let’s put an asterisk next to this one. If you’ve ever seen my Ferries of Canada page you already know that in the summertime you can take a ferry from Campobello Island to Deer Island, and then from there take another ferry to l’Etête on mainland New Brunswick and never have to cross into the United States. If that sounds far-fetched, the route is actually touted both as a way to shave nearly 100 miles of driving and as a means to avoid long lineups at more popular border crossings further west. The crossing at Campobello Island takes an average of less than fifteen minutes.

I learn a lot of non-geography information when I put together these posts. That’s one reason I like doing this. As I researched Campobello, I saw that this was where the Roosevelt family maintained a summer home for many decades. This is also where Franklin Roosevelt came down with the polio that crippled him for life, although in fairness to Canada he caught it on the U.S. side of the border in all likelihood and only came down with the symptoms on Campobello.

The Roosevelt’s summer home is now a park. Interestingly it’s run by an international organization, the Roosevelt Campobello International Park Commission, even though it’s located wholly within Canada. This unique arrangement was created through a formal treaty between Canada and the United States: both countries support the park financially; both help run it and maintain it; and both provide employees in roughly equal proportions. This recognizes its important historical meaning to both countries, and a sign of cooperation and friendship.

On April 3, 2009 · 7 Comments

7 Responses to “Canadian Border Anomalies”

  1. kimosabe i can confirm your imaginings
    as of the last time i was at st regis on the ground anyway
    & can even show you a couple of pix of the tripoint you seek
    one view from each country in fact
    at the bottom of the following link
    http://article.gmane.org/gmane.culture.discuss.boundary-point/8286
    bon voyage
    who was that masked man

  2. E Hoxha says:

    I can confirm that when you travel north from Hogansburg NY to St. Regis QC there is no border formalities and it is very hard to tell when you are in Canada and when you are in the USA.

    St Regis QC is a native community and it has a reputation as a place where smuggling and other dodgy things go on. It has an Ontario area code and most of the cars appear to have Ontario license plates. English is the main language there….it is a quirk of geography that it is technically in QC.

  3. Lyn Truss says:

    Aletheia

    I wonder whether you could learn to use punctuation. It would be easier on the eye. Thank you so much.

    Lyn

  4. Rob W says:

    As a former resident of Cornwall, Ontario I too can confirm that the small village of St Regis Quebec is accessible by land only from New York state USA. There is simply a moss covered boundary marker that is barely visible on the one road in and out. Other than mainly Quebec licence plates on cars at the 20 or so homes in St Regis and a red Canada Post letter box, you have no idea you have left the US and are in Canada. There is no border post. Given that its Mohawk land, the region is policed mainly by the First Nation people. The smuggling possibilities of being at the confluence of two Canadian provinces and the USA – with no border guards – boggles!

  5. Boundary Man says:

    I was in St Regis near the end of May of this year. There are more than 20 homes there…probably closer to 150 or so….it is hard to tell when you are in Canada vs the US as it is a native community and the cars can have all sorts of licence plates. There is a post office in the community. Most cars have Ontario plates and they use the 613 area code there. IIRC there are 2 or 3 roads that cross the border. The community centre is bisected by the border I think.

    If you go to the east there are roads between St Regis and Fort Covington NY that go between Canada and the US without any border crossing or any sign of a camera. I did find a border cairn on the road on the east side of the St Regis River there.

    Interesting place..

  6. Abigail says:

    I was wondering about the St Regis island north of the Mohawk territory. Getting there obviously requires water transportation and since there seems to be people living there are the Akwesasne freely permitted to travel there by boat?

    If so, couldn’t they also go the rest of the way and cross into Ontario? Then a trip back into the U.S. would not be necessary. Is this legal for them?

  7. Gabe says:

    I have a question for you guys, I am Canadian and my girlfriend is from Argentina studying in USA, we want to do a summer trip from Niagara Falls to Montreal, we want to visit this town of Saint Regis I want to know if we can go in and out without any problem. Thx!

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