DERBY LINE — A retired Florida businessman has taken it upon himself to stand up for border communities that have seen businesses close and families torn apart since the U.S. – Canadian border closed over a year ago.
Last week, John Adams started buying television ads in the U.S. calling out the impact the closed border has had on families, businesses, and property owners like himself.
He says he’s standing up for places like Derby Line, Vermont, and Stanstead, Quebec, a place where normally family and binational couples could drive across the border to see each other within 5 minutes.
With the land border closed to what the Biden administration has deemed “non-essential travel,” family reunification for border families has turned into a 9-hour journey that includes an international flight. All just to cross a border literally in their backyards.
Even more frustrating for border families is the fact that the Biden administration has declared sports teams essential, and therefore able to cross the land border without issue, while in some cases family members with dying relatives have been turned away.
“Visitation of friends and family is non-essential,” the latest statement by Customs and Border Protection about the border closure reads. “Additionally, as professional sports teams begin to resume operation, travel by athletes through land ports of entry to participate in sporting events are considered essential.”
Adams says he is also sticking up for places like Erie County, New York, where the loss of Canadian business has cost somewhere between $665-855 million.
The tourism industry in Western New York alone has seen 20,000 people lose their jobs, mostly due to the restrictions on Canadian visitors crossing the land border.
For the last year, politicians have offered little more than lip service to border communities.
Here in Vermont, the congressional delegation placed the blame on the Trump administration for the situation before the election. Now, they are mostly silent and offer sympathy messages every month when the closure is extended.
Adams says he has stepped up to fight back. He’s spent a total of $2,700 in television ads so far.
The money has bought 153 ads that have been running in Buffalo, Detroit, and western Washington.
The publicity the ads brought landed Adams interviews on several local and national television news stations, where he has been able to highlight the hurt and anger of the people who have been affected most.
“To not allow me to go to my home in Canada that I’m paying taxes on is wrong,” Adams said. “To not allow a couple that’s engaged where the guy lives here, and the girl lives over there, not to see each other, that’s immoral, and that has to stop.”
Adams says he is not going to stop running the ads until the border reopens.
His next move is getting the ads running in Canada. Next week he plans to start airing ads in Toronto and Ottawa.
This move has already created a buzz in Canada, where CTV posted a story over the weekend with the headline “U.S.-style attack ads aim to pressure Trudeau on reopening border.”
The ads tell the story of the devastation caused by the border closure and are far from attack style.
After raising over $23,000 through a GoFundMe campaign, Adams says he is prepared to air a lot of ads up north. Some of the markets he plans to run the ads in will cost significantly more than in the U.S.
He jokes that the only way Canadian politicians are not going to see his ads is if they cover their eyes.
“I’m going to be in Ottawa like the fog,” Adams said.
Adams says he believes that we will see a phased reopening process at the border starting June 21, but his message to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is clear.
“You can do it the easy way, or you can do it the hard way,” he said.
He is pushing for separated families and property owners to be allowed to cross before the next June 21 deadline.
In an interview with Newport Dispatch on Friday, Adams discussed some of the long-lasting effects that this fiasco at the border will have on communities like Derby Line.
“I think in Canada these policies have built animosity and even hatred toward the United States, but, at least it seems like that’s improving somewhat.”
He says he thinks that these feelings are going to carry over long after the border reopens and that the economic impact will be felt for a long time.
“Some of the businesses that closed will never reopen. For those that do, it will take them years to recover.”
Adams believes that when we look back and recognize the impact that this has had on the mental health and local economies of border communities, it should make it almost impossible to repeat in the future.
“If we don’t learn some valuable lessons from this hellish, horrible experience we’ve had, we’ll have missed an opportunity. I think they’ll look back and say, ‘Wow, that was a big mess, and we’ll never do that again.’ We’ll see what happens.”
To support John Adams in flooding the airwaves with a simple message, that it is time to open the border, reunite separated families, and get the economy in border communities going again, CLICK HERE to donate to his GoFundMe campaign. Money collected is going to pay for television ads to pressure President Biden and Premier Trudeau to stop talking and take action.