A bor­der town where pe­tu­nias split coun­tries

Re­la­tions au beau fixe entre les com­mu­nau­tés fron­ta­lières de Der­by Line.

Vocable (Anglais) - - Édito / Sommaire -

En im­po­sant au Ca­na­da des ta­rifs doua­niers pro­hi­bi­tifs sur les ex­por­ta­tions d’acier et d’alu­mi­nium vers les Etats-Unis, Do­nald Trump a pro­vo­qué l’ire de Jus­tin Tru­deau. De­puis quelques se­maines, les deux lea­ders se livrent une guerre éco­no­mique et mé­dia­tique sans mer­ci. Mais à Der­by Line, pe­tite ville du Ver­mont si­tuée à la fron­tière ca­na­dienne, les re­la­tions entre com­mu­nau­tés fron­ta­lières sont plus cor­diales que ja­mais...

DER­BY LINE, Vt. — Parts of the Uni­ted States bor­der are mar­ked with tall me­tal fen­cing. Other stretches are out­li­ned by sna­king ri­vers. Then there is Church Street in this ti­ny com­mu­ni­ty in nor­thern Ver­mont, where the Ca­na­dian bor­der is de­li­nea­ted with nine pots of pink and purple pe­tu­nias and a si­gn or­de­ring people not to cross.

2. Even the cheer­ful strip of flo­wers re­pre­sents a star­ker split bet­ween the coun­tries than some people in this old bor­der vil­lage would pre­fer. “We don’t real­ly look at them as Ca­na- dian or Ame­ri­can,” said Ro­land Roy, a phar­ma­cist and the chair­man of the lo­cal board of trus­tees, whom eve­ryone calls Buzz. “They’re just our neigh­bors.”

3. So it has been jar­ring for the re­si­dents of Der­by Line to sud­den­ly find their na­tion at odds with the one on the other side of the flo­wers. Some re­si­dents said they wat­ched with a sense of ri­sing dis­com­fort as a gathering by lea­ders of the Group of 7 na­tions [last month] de­vol­ved in­to open grou­sing bet­ween Pre­sident Do­nald Trump and Prime Mi­nis­ter Jus­tin Tru­deau of Ca­na­da. Af­ter Tru­deau war­ned of re­ta­lia­to­ry ta­riffs, Trump used Twit­ter to call him “ve­ry dis­ho­nest & weak,” and a Trump ad­vi­ser sug­ges­ted there was a “spe­cial place in hell” for Tru­deau.


4. It was all too much for Roy, who said he was exas­pe­ra­ted by what he had seen, par­ti­cu­lar­ly from the Ame­ri­can side. “We de­pend on each other for trade, for se­cu­ri­ty, for eve­ry­thing,” he said, at his me­ti­cu­lous­ly or­ga­ni­zed phar­ma­cy. “You just don’t treat your friends that way.”

5. Bor­ders can be places where ten­sion bubbles over and in­ter­na­tio­nal skir­mishes be­gin. But, at least for now, the tiff bet­ween Trump and Tru­deau see­med no match for the bond bet­ween Der­by Line and Stans­tead, Que­bec. Af­ter all, this is a place where the li­bra­ry and thea­ter buil­ding was pur­po­se­ly construc­ted to straddle the bor­der; you can change coun­tries just by wal­king across the room. The lines, too, are blur­red when it comes to the lo­cal ho­ckey league, the cur­ling club and even the wa­ter and se­wer sys­tem. Lives are li­ved across two coun­tries.

AF­TER 9/11

6. When se­cu­ri­ty was ram­ped up af­ter the ter­ro­rist at­tacks of Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001, cros­sing the bor­der be­came more cum­ber­some. Not far from the line of flo­wers, there is an of­fi­cial bor­der cros­sing com­plete with booths, cus­toms of­fi­cials and go­vern­ment SUVs. Roy was him­self brie­fly ta­ken in­to cus­to­dy se­ve­ral years ago af­ter wal­king over the bor­der to buy a piz­za, and then cros­sing it twice more to prove a point. The epi­sode yiel­ded the headline “Lo­cal Man Jai­led For Cros­sing Street” and led lo­cals to don pins that read “Free Buz­zy Roy.”

7. But ad­ded se­cu­ri­ty has by no means stop­ped the cros­so­ver traf­fic. Ca­na­dians come to Ver­mont to find cheap gas, milk and the clo­sest Wal­mart. Ame­ri­cans head to Que­bec for tas­ty but­ter and their pre­fer­red gin­ger ale. “We’re a na­tu­ral fa­mi­ly,” said Ho­ward Hale, 55, a sales clerk at the gas sta­tion near the bor­der cros­sing. Hale is al­so a fi­re­figh­ter in Der­by Line, which has a mu­tual aid agree­ment to help fight fires with towns in Ca­na­da. Jean-Fran- çois Pa­quette, a Que­be­cois, pul­led up to the gas sta­tion bays. He crosses the bor­der once a week, he said, just for gas.


8. The bu­si­ness is wel­come in this re­gion of Ver­mont, which struggles with high rates of po­ver­ty and unem­ploy­ment com­pa­red with the state ove­rall. And all the talk of po­li­ti­cal ten­sions, ta­riffs and a re­ne­go­tia­tion of the North Ame­ri­can Free Trade Agree­ment is cer­tain­ly a to­pic of in­tense interest and concern. Tim Shearer, 48, a nurse from Que­bec who said he is able to work in Ver­mont be­cause of NAFTA, wonders how the trade dis­cus­sions could af­fect him. “That’s what wor­ries me the most, whe­ther I am going to have job se­cu­ri­ty,” he said.

9. Warm re­la­tions are a mat­ter of cons­tant at­ten­tion. Just this week, Bruce James, who owns a group of ra­dio sta­tions and is the head of the North Coun­try Cham­ber of Com­merce, or­de­red new si­gns, in English and French, for the wel­come cen­ter in a near­by com­mu­ni­ty. (They read “Wel­come” and “Bien­ve­nue.”) James said his or­ga­ni­za­tion al­so is plan­ning work­shops to teach lo­cal wor­kers French phrases. “They know we don’t have any­thing against Ca­na­dians, that we don’t have any is­sues, that we don’t want to do any­thing to up­set their apple carts,” James said.

(Yoon Byun/The New York Times)

A row of flo­wer pots de­li­neates the bor­der bet­ween Stans­tead, Que­bec, and Der­by Line, Ver­mont.

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