Stanstead inn owner recounts bizarre pandemic experience

By Michael Boriero - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The border between the United States of America and Canada plays an important role in the daily lives of Stanstead, Quebec residents. It’s a tourist attraction and a historic symbol in the city.
But everything came to a screeching halt during the last few months with the pandemic forcing Canada to close its borders. Quebecers in the area haven’t been able to venture down south, although some people got creative throughout the summer.
According to Karine Cantin, co-owner of the Auberge Le Sunshine, one family in Stanstead put a wedding together along the border just outside the Haskell Library, which sits in both countries. They wanted to see their daughter and American son-in-law on their big day.
“They used our catering service,” said Cantin. “We made about nine boxes for the Canadian side, it was like a picnic.”
While the wedding drew a lot of attention around Stanstead, it also caused one couple to head into a mandatory quarantine. A pair of Montrealers booked a room in Cantin’s auberge on the same day of the make-shift wedding.
When the visitors arrived to the city, they decided to walk around before checking into the auberge, she explained. The couple ended up passing by the wedding venue to see what all the fuss was about, unfortunately they wandered a little bit too far.
The pair unwittingly walked across the border, which led to an intervention from patrol agents. They were told to walk back into Canada through the official border crossing. They were also told to quarantine, which came as a shock.
“The funny part was that he completely forgot about me,” Cantin said. They were so disturbed by the situation that when Cantin called to check in about the reservation, the couple was already on the road back to Montreal and explained what happened.
If they didn’t follow the quarantine protocol, she continued, they could face jail time and massive fines. It was easily the most interesting day in recent memory for Cantin, but she also served as a host for a family coming in from England.
An elderly couple came to visit their family and grandchildren. They booked the entire top floor of the auberge to quarantine for two weeks. Cantin and her partner, Jean Des Rosiers, never met with them in person, she added, everything was done in compliance with Quebec’s rules.
“We never made contact with them, so the risk wasn’t too high,” she said. “We have a bakery and there’s more risk of interacting with a client buying bread.”
Cantin said that after the couple ended their stay, her staff cleaned out the room and disinfected everything from top to bottom. The hardest part about the pandemic in general has been keeping up with the cleaning duties, she continued.
The local inn has done relatively well during the pandemic. While the first two or three months were difficult with all of the closures, Cantin said that when the economy reopened they noticed a surge in bookings and a slightly different clientele.
They started seeing more Quebecers seeking an escape from city life and looking to spend time in the countryside. But there is uncertainty surrounding the winter months. With a second wave looming, the inn could lose out on a lot of money.
“There’s some losses that are pretty important and it’ll make it difficult when the revenue isn’t there. But the government is helping a lot with businesses, so we’ll see,” said Cantin.

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