Last week a Cranbrook newspaper grabbed my attention with a story regarding a citizen of the town of Golden who found a sign stating “Go Home” on the windshield of the Alberta plated vehicle she was driving. This woman was a long-time resident of Golden but was driving her mother’s vehicle with because hers required repairs.

I found the article intriguing as I had been hearing mutterings of complaints regarding Albertans coming to Fernie. I posted the story to my FB page stating that I hoped this could never happen in Fernie because this town has always been so welcoming to second home owners and visitors from out of town. The response to the posting was immediate from Fernie born and raised individuals living in Alberta who were aghast at the idea that they couldn’t visit family living here.

Comments included the following:

Patrick, “I know many people that grew up in Fernie and now work in Calgary, many of us travel to Lethbridge to shop”.

Sharon, “Interesting times, I have a son, a sister, nieces and nephews who I love very much that live in Alberta. Times have gotten so stressful and people need to remember to be kind. We all need to show each other respect! We owe each other at least this much”.

Andrew, “I keep reading the comments on Mary’s post. What has happened to the great little town so many of us grew up in? Something tells me the ones doing this didn’t grow up in Fernie or surrounding area.”

Joe, “I thought the virus was making people sick, but not crazy!”

Char, “I agree, total ignorance and very sad. Many Albertans own homes here and spend their money here which is good for our businesses. We are all Canadians and we should act accordingly no matter where we are from. We are all in this together. I am from Fernie and very proud. As Canadians we are not known to be rude, we are known as a compassionate country. So, let’s start acting like it”.

Pam, “I think everyone needs to remember that we are all in this Covid crisis together. People make rude comments everywhere not just in Fernie! People are stressed and are on the defensive. We all need to try to not take it personally. Fernie is my hometown and I would not tolerate abuse from anyone there just because I live in Alberta now. My motto has always been to kill the haters with kindness it works!”

Joey, “I totally agree. It’s sad to hear this crap is taking place. I grew up in Fernie and will always call Fernie home, regardless if I live in Alberta. Not to mention all these hypocrites lately need to check out the number of BC vehicles in Alberta. Last time I checked we are all Canadians. Check your egos at the door people.”

Andrea, “What doesn’t make sense to me is we live so close to the Alberta border, yet aren’t supposed to cross. However, B.C. is re-opening to residents, hmm! We mustn’t drive an hour East into another province, but it’s okay if we drive eight- or nine-hours West in the same province?”

I have spoken with several business people who have expressed concern as it’s known that this community has relied on the Alberta market in the past.

One said that his business had clients coming from Alberta every week and with the lockdown, although now open, he hasn’t had any bookings from Alberta. He is wondering if the expressed negative attitude that has permeated to our neighbouring province meant those clients were choosing not to return. Others commented that they too had heard such comments and were concerned.

Brad Parsell, executive director of the Fernie Chamber of Commerce, said this has become a huge issue since both the BC and Alberta Provincial Government’s have discouraged all non-essential travel across the border. Right now everyone is waiting to get to phase three to see what new regulations will be introduced.

Present regulations have become a bit of a grey area, Parsell says, because the BC Government has not passed any rules for enforcement, just suggestions. In the Maritimes the borders were closed and effectively eliminated all confusion and cross-border travel. With BC and Alberta, the border remained open because of our shared economy and people were left striving to follow Covid-19 policy and trying to do the right thing.

He adds that we need to recognize how importance of Fernie’s business relationship with Alberta and the hope that it will continue to remain strong after Covid-19 is over. He reminds us that there are many legitimate reasons to travel between the two provinces because of employment, health care or family–although those could be deemed non-essential travel, in reality it is.

Parsell says there has been two months of unprecedented crisis and people have responded differently, to date extreme behaviour has been the exception.

I’ve spoken to several Fernie residents who have all expressed a positive response to this cross-border issue. All recognize that the close proximity to the border makes this issue more complicated because of the close connection that citizens from both sides of the border have with each other.

Being this close physically has produced a bond that is due to family members living in both provinces, people working in opposite provinces, and also in our community it’s the bond we hold with the many Albertans that call Fernie home. They purchased homes decades ago and are involved with the community on many levels and have become part of the community.

As we enter more relaxed pandemic restrictions, we welcome you as valued part time Fernie citizens that I know personally contribute greatly to our town in many ways and for that we thank you and look forward to seeing you again.

By Mary Giuliano

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