Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 2.28.17
Stanstead, Quebec


A case of refugee envy

Dear Refugees Fleeing Would-Be American Oppression:

I see on the news that you 've been crossing illegally from the U.S. into Canada along our vast and largely unprotected border. It 's been happening in Manitoba and it 's been happening about an hour away from here in Quebec.

So my question is: Why not Stanstead?

We 're a border community, a very famous border community. Just ask every news outlet that 's ever wanted to do the same old story about post-9/11 life on the border. Surely you 've heard of us. No? That's okay, we 've heard of you. Well, not"you" specifically but the idea of you, the concept of the refugee, and we 're all for it! We 'd love to have you illegally enter Stanstead! At least I think we would. But more on that later.

First, though, let me tell you what Stanstead has to offer to fill all your Trump-fleeing needs.

We have a great selection of temporary housing, including several closed churches, a closed school, closed stores, lots of closed places really. As far as resources we can offer, Stanstead has, umm... well, er... we have a new Tim Hortons! Have you seen the Tim Hortons? It 's awesome! I can't believe Stanstead has a Tim Hortons!

We also have RCMP officers ready to greet you. There 's a long tradition of Mounties in Stanstead. They used to have a detachment here. It closed more than 20 years ago, but the Mounties never really left town, just went undercover, mostly concerned with smuggling.

(Hey, do you suppose the Mounties ever get mixed up and say,"Guess what, Constable Biff, yesterday I caught a snuggler," and then they get the giggles? No? Well, I would.)

A couple of years ago they converted the old Caisse Populaire into a bunker, and now Stanstead has oodles of highly visible Mounties refusing to make eye contact as they drive around in their RCMP SUVs. ("RCMP SUV": sounds like a Canadian forensic crime show, don 't you think?) I 'm pretty sure they 've been bored out of their epaulets, so I bet they 'd be relieved, possibly overjoyed, to finally have something to do around here.

In other words, it would be great for everyone if you would cross our border. I mean, what does Hemmingford have that we don 't have? Come on over! We 're ready to welcome you.

At least I think we are.

You see, like a lot of Canadians, we in Stanstead believe we are tolerant of people regardless of their race or religion. Of course, like a lot of Canadians, especially rural Canadians, we 've never really been tested. Once you get here, you 'll notice pretty quickly that Stanstead is awfully white. Our black community consists of .1 percent of the population. And by"community," I mean a house. I literally know where the black community lives.

We had a Chinese couple purchase the local d&eacurte;panneur a few years ago. It was certainly remarked upon, but the same was true when our grocery store changed from an"IGA" to a"March&ecute; Tradition." We 're kind of starved for excitement.

So we assume we 'd be tolerant of people of different races or religions, even though we have very little actual experience, let alone with refugees. For us, the refugee crisis is something we 've been able to support in the abstract because it 's been a humanitarian crisis far away. Canadians support it in principle. If people start flooding our borders, however, we will truly see what we are made of. I 'm confident we here in Stanstead would be made of good stuff.

But then I read that, according to an Angus Reid poll, 1 in 4 Canadians want Canada to impose its own Trump-style travel ban and that 41 percent say Canada 's refugee target is too high.

Wait a sec. Is 1 of those 4 in Stanstead? Are there people in my town who would tell those refugees to go back where they came from? Are there people in my neighbourhood who would attend a vile anti-Islam rally? Are there people I know who lack compassion and prey on fear? 1 in 4… Anyway, we 'd love to have you! I think it would be great for Stanstead, especially if you decided to stay. Can you imagine, we would then be able to say we have a Somali community. We could even direct people to the Somali community 's house.

We 're ready for you. I think. I hope.

See you soon. Stay warm. Ross P.S. If you cross the border at Church Street, please be careful not to damage the flowerpots. They 're quite lovely in the summer.