Lisa Holton and her two young sons were just waiting to check into a Whitehorse hotel the other night when two women walked by on the street.
“And they started pointing and laughing. And we didn’t do or say anything, we’re just standing there … and one of them yelled out, ‘You shouldn’t even be here, you dirty, COVID-spreading traveller!'” Holton recalled.
It was jarring to Holton; she says she’d been very careful to ensure that she was following all the rules for transiting safely through Yukon. Her family was relocating from Alaska to Minnesota, and Holton had to make the drive.
Under Yukon’s pandemic-related restrictions, travellers going to or from Alaska are allowed just 24 hours to drive through the territory. Holton says she took care to meet that deadline, and follow all other public health orders, but she needed a night’s rest in Whitehorse to be safe on the road. She says she asked about it at the border and was told it was OK.
She found the outburst from the two women on the street “bizarre,” but she’s willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
“I think it’s fear, and I think fear makes us do funny things,” she said.
She’s now several days out of Yukon, and looking back she says it felt different travelling through the territory.
“Now that I’m further into Canada, I can say that I just feel like the Yukon was itself a little more agitated than B.C. and Alberta,” she said.
“I can’t speculate, I guess, as to why it is.”
Yukon has no known active cases of COVID-19 right now. The last confirmed cases were announced more than a month ago. In all, the territory has seen 11 confirmed cases — all related to travel outside Yukon — and all of those people have recovered.
Territorial officials have said that border restrictions have been essential to minimize the risk of more cases coming in. Some public health restrictions are now being eased, but it will be at least next month before any border restrictions are relaxed.
As of Thursday, according to the Yukon government, 11,537 travellers have been allowed entry into Yukon. One-hundred-and-five people have been denied.
Canadian rules ‘strict, but necessary,’ says Alaskan
James Fisher says he had no problem with Yukon’s travel restrictions when he drove through recently. He and his wife were heading home to Alaska for the summer from Florida.
“I think most of America is not taking these things seriously enough,” he said.
“I thought the Canadian restrictions were strict, but necessary, and it wasn’t anything I disagreed with.”
He says they decided to drive their RV back home instead of leaving it down south, so that they could be as self-contained as possible through Canada.
All went well, he said, except for one incident similar to Holton’s. He’d just gassed up in Teslin and was back on the road when he saw some people walking alongside the road.
“I was in a good mood from buying fuel at the Nisutlin Trading Post, so thought I should wave to them,” he recalled.
“So I started waving first, and they gave me the finger with both hands. All three of them. So I thought, ‘Oh, I didn’t need that, but OK.'”
That didn’t colour his overall impression of Canadians though.
“Canadians are definitely more polite than Americans … it’s a bit of a cliché that Canadians are polite, but by gosh, it’s true.”