This is the wrong ‘Angle’

Over the years there have been plenty of controversies regarding the Northwest Angle in northern Minnesota. At least twice in Minnesota’s history, the residents of the angle threatened to secede from the United States and become part of Canada. Northwest Angle is the only place in the continental United States that is north of the 49th Parallel. And if you have business in Roseau or Warroad, you have to take Manitoba roads to get back to the U.S. border. That is, of course, unless you take a boat across Lake of the Woods.

There have been fishing disputes with Canada on the waters of Lake of the Woods, and on the good side, there was a time not so long ago that the border was open to Northwest Angle residents. They could cross back and forth without ever going through a bonafide port of entry. All they had to do was write their names down and slip a piece of paper into a drop box. How about that, crossing the Canadian border on the honor system?

Now there’s another issue that hasn’t surfaced before. Apparently, there have been some residents of Northwest Angle who have been denied access to those rural Manitoba roads because of COVID-19 restrictions put on by the Government of Canada. Canadian protocol says you have to be tested negative within three days of crossing the border, even if you are an American citizen trying to get home to the Northwest Angle.

This caught the attention of Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., who has demanded the Canadian government allow those Minnesota residents to get back to their homes on the angle. That went over like a lead balloon, so Smith has written a letter to the U.S. State Department asking officials there to intervene with their Canadian counterparts to rectify this situation, at the very least, for those who live at Northwest Angle and do their business in Roseau, Warroad, and sometimes Grafton and Grand Forks.

If Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would drop all COVID restrictions, maybe those local residents would be able to slip their name back into that drop box. Until that happens, however, this is going to be an issue. It’s the same principal as traveling through Canada to get to Alaska. But in that case, you're driving 1,200 miles through Canada and not 40 like you are to get to the Northwest Angle.

Residents of the angle have often complained about many of these problems over the years, and that’s what led to the suggestion of secession from the United States. It was often implied that St. Paul didn’t care about the 60 residents living out there in the sticks, so nothing would ever get done. But Smith, who has been around Minneapolis most of her adult life, stepped in to help the people of this American enclave just outside the United States.

It’s hard telling what will get done or if anything will get done. Maybe Northwest Angle residents should have a sticker in their car window, much like the Sun Pass in Florida that lets you blow through toll booths while traveling. That would at least tell Canada Customs agents or U.S. Border Patrol agents who these people are.

Furthermore, once you cross the border, it’s one of the most remote locations in Manitoba other than the far north. There are very few people in that part of Manitoba. It’s a long way from Winnipeg, so exposing a lot of people, even if you were positive, would be very unlikely. You actually “angle” back to the angle on three provincial highways that, all told, are about 30 miles of driving on the Canadian side. Then, it’s another 10 miles from when you cross back into the United States at Angle Inlet Township to several rural developments at Northwest Angle.

Another part of this equation is from the residents of that remote rural area of Manitoba where few people live. Never has anyone living there complained about their American friends traveling back and forth, at least not publicly. They understand the logistical situation, the Canadian government apparently does not.

Another thing it’s done is destroy tourism. If you can imagine, tourism is a big deal on Lake of the Woods, and with the border as restrictive as it has been, you’d have to fly in or take a boat.

If not, there are 60 Americans who remain at the mercy of the Canadian government.

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