With COVID border restrictions still in place, the Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations (FOCA) has taken up the torch for cottage owners stuck south of the border.
Thousands of Americans own secondary properties throughout Ontario’s cottage country, but they’ve been unable to access them throughout the pandemic. As members of their respective cottage communities and major contributors to the local economies, FOCA is advocating on behalf of Americans with Ontario properties for clarification from the Canadian government on the status of the Canada-U.S. border.
In an email, FOCA’s executive director Terry Rees said that the federation received no response from the Prime Minister about the border, but was instead redirected to Canada’s Minister of Health Patty Hajdu for follow up.
The lack of response does nothing to ease cottage owners’ concerns, especially Americans who are anxious to visit their Ontario properties. Andrew Mullen, an elementary school counselor from Radnor, Penn., who owns a cottage on Stave Island, near Ontario’s Gananoque, says he hasn’t been able to access his cottage for two years and it’s had a major impact on him and his family.
“It’s bordering on traumatic for us,” he says. “The summer at our cottage, that’s our reset for the entire year. That’s our time to just be a family.”
Mullen and his wife have spent 12 of the past 14 summers raising their three children at the cottage. Without it, Mullen says he’s noticed a constant undercurrent of stress afflicting his family. “It’s undermined my ability to find balance in my life,” he says.
On top of missing the cathartic effects of the cottage, Mullen has also had to grapple with long-distance maintenance, relying on cottage neighbours to check in on the property. “I’m sure there’s a ton of upkeep that needs to be done,” he says,” but thanks to our Canadian friends, there’s no holes in the roof or anything like that.”
The Canadian government has eased some border restrictions. As of July 5, Canadian citizens have been allowed to return from the States without quarantining. These travellers do, however, still have to submit to a test and produce a negative result when entering the country. The Canadian and U.S. governments are also slated to reevaluate the border closure on July 21. Until then, Mullen and his family are forced to wait.
In response to the prolonged border closure, Mullen says he thinks exceptions should be made for U.S. citizens who own property in Canada. “We pay taxes, we’re valuable members of the community, we have roots there, we have friends, and we’re on an island,” he says. “I think we should be allowed to come back into Canada if we’re fully vaccinated and follow all of the necessary protocols.”