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N.B.-N.S. border remains closed due to protest about isolation requirements

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Traffic remained at a standstill on a section of Nova Scotia’s Trans-Canada Highway Wednesday morning as people continue to protest border restrictions that mean travellers from New Brunswick must continue to self-isolate upon arrival in Nova Scotia.

Paul MacDougall of Halifax has been stranded in his car since Tuesday night waiting in a line to get into Nova Scotia. 

“I’m extremely exhausted. I have no food, no water,” he told CBC’s Information Morning Halifax

“I’ve been trying to sleep all night just in the front seat here, just taking a nap when I can. But it’s hard to do because I’m just worried … the traffic is going to start moving and I might miss my opportunity to get out of here.” 

The Nova Scotia government announced Tuesday afternoon that travellers from New Brunswick will continue to have to self-isolate upon arrival, a decision that came less than 24 hours before Nova Scotia opened its borders with P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador without isolation or testing requirements.

People travelling from New Brunswick — including Nova Scotians returning from that province — can enter Nova Scotia for any reason but will have isolation and testing requirements based on their vaccination status.

New Brunswick had initially been included in Nova Scotia’s Wednesday reopening plans for travellers in the Atlantic region, announced little more than a week ago. Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin’s last-minute reversal has angered many people in the Maritimes who had eagerly anticipated being able to freely cross the New Brunswick-Nova Scotia border.

Rankin said the decision was prompted by New Brunswick opening its borders to Canadian travellers from outside the Atlantic region last week without the requirement they self-isolate, provided they have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. It is the only Atlantic Canadian province to do so.

In response to Rankin’s announcement, people started protesting in the Amherst area, a Nova Scotia town near the border. By Tuesday evening all four lanes at Exit 7 on Highway 104 of the Cobequid Pass — about 50 kilometres from the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border — were closed.

That section later reopened, but the border itself was closed before midnight and protesters are gathered there Wednesday morning.

RCMP Cpl. Chris Marshall said police were in the process of bringing in additional resources and planned to continue dialogue with the protestors.

Police remained at the border Wednesday morning. (Jonathan Villeneuve/Radio-Canada)

MacDougall had gone to New Brunswick for work earlier this week expecting to be able to drive home around midnight Tuesday without any restrictions. By the time he heard about the new rules that would require him to self-isolate, it was too late to return before they went into effect.

He decided to drive home anyway to start his self isolation but once he hit the border, it was blocked by vehicles. 

“A big crowd of people lined the cars going across the road and yeah, and that was just kind of a shock,” he said. 

Shortly after he arrived around 11 p.m., an RCMP checked in to see if MacDougall wanted to turn around.

“I just thought that this would be cleared up within a short while. So I said, no, I’ll just sit here and sit and hold tight,” he said. 

He said he could understand people’s frustrations but he described the wait to get in as “torturous.”

Around 8 a.m. MacDougall could see the “Welcome to Nova Scotia” sign at the border but traffic remained at a standstill. Three vehicles were ahead of him. 

As a result of the border closure, the Nova Scotia Health Authority is advising that the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre is only providing essential services because health-care workers who live in New Brunswick aren’t able to get to work. 

Amherst considering comfort centres

David Kogon, the mayor of Amherst, told Information Morning the town was prepared to open comfort centres so people who were stranded could use washroom facilities and get some food, if it was determined that such help was needed. 

“The blockades on the highway have shown that there’s a significant number of people who are really, really angry that the Atlantic bubble that they were promised does not come to light,” he said. 

“Families have been split apart for months and months and months and looking for that to finally come to an end today. And then at the last minute, the 11th hour, having that dashed? Extremely, extremely disappointing.”

He said he wants the governments of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to come up with a plan together so that everyone “feels they’re being treated equally and fairly.” 

“It’s the fact that they’re not collaborating and working together to develop a plan that’s acceptable to both the provinces. That’s the disappointing thing to me,” Kogon said. “We want to see a resolution.”

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