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Families are essential: U.S. and Canada families separated by border protest restrictions

Posted at 5:47 PM, Apr 11, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Dozens of families separated for more than a year by the U.S. Canada border closure protested to have families considered essential, so they can travel to see one another.

Sandy Pearce's parents are in their 90s, living in Blasdell and Hamburg. Her daughter and granddaughters also live in Western New York. Pearce lives in Canada with the rest of her family.

"My whole family has been torn apart. It's mentally tough for everybody," Pearce said.

Dena Catalano lives in West Seneca. She was married to her Canadian husband for 6 months before COVID forced the border to shut down. Prior to the closure, she would see her husband each weekend.

"It hurts very much. I don't really have any other way to describe it other than I feel like I'm dying slowly," Catalano said.

Merton LaBounty shut down his construction company and moved from Lake George to Buffalo to be closer to his girlfriend, Tammy, who lives in Fort Erie.

"It's been an emotional roller coaster this whole year for the both of us," LaBounty said.

Each month, they hope restrictions are loosened; but each month, the border closure is extended.

"We need a light at the end of the tunnel that this isn't going to continue and that families should be considered before opening the border to tourism, to go shopping, anything like that," Pearce said.

"We have some glimpses of hope here and there. We get so excited and then they change what we have to do," LaBounty said.

In February, they said traveling between the two countries became even more difficult when Canada began requiring 3 negative COVID tests in addition to a 14-day quarantine.

"If you do not have your results back within the 14 days, you still have to quarantine. Some people are quarantining for 17 to 18 days along with three negative COVID tests," Pearce said.

"That's a huge expense. We can't afford it," Catalano said.

That's why these families are protesting on both sides of the border. They are not asking for it to be reopened, but for families to be considered essential so they can see one another.

"Our lives are literally on hold. I'm just appealing to their hearts. Please, do something to help change this and quickly. We need to be with our families. We need them. Please do something," Catalano said.