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Canadian islanders angry over US mail searches

Campobello, a small Canadian island on the southwestern tip of New Brunswick, is only accessible year-round by bridge from the US state of Maine. US Customs agents have recently begun intercepting mail sent by Canada’s postal agency to the island, leaving residents frustrated — and worried about their privacy.

It was late summer when packages began arriving at the post office in the Campobello village of Welshpool with bright green labels declaring they’d been inspected by US customs. Packages, envelopes, it didn’t matter, they were checked at the border.

«Anything that arrives at the border is subject to being searched — that means anything,» postmaster Kathleen Case told the BBC.

Some days every item of mail — which are placed in a bonded truck in Canada and then sent about 80km (50 miles) through Maine and over the international Franklin Delano Roosevelt Bridge to Campobello — is inspected. Some packages have been seized.

«Here we are, a symbol of US-Canada friendship, and this is going on,» says resident Steve Hatch. The former journalist has lodged a complaint with Canada Post, arguing the security of the mail destined for the island’s 800 residents is being compromised and their privacy unprotected.

«Anything you order, [US border patrol agents] are going to know about,» Mr Hatch told the BBC.

It’s not just Mr Hatch who’s frustrated.

There are confidentiality concerns about private medical and financial documents sent via the post. Some residents say there have been long delays in getting their packages delivered, inspected or not.

And there are worries that someone could receive mail or a package with content that could get them banned from entering the US.

Cannabis New Brunswick, the government-run marijuana retailer, has temporarily halted the deliveries to the island. Both recreational and medical cannabis is legal in Canada but remain banned under US federal law.

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