At the U S – Canada border, between the American state of Vermont & the Canadian province of Quebec, lies Canusa Street, where walking across the dotted yellow line down the middle of the road requires residents to report to a border crossing office first or face fines & prison time.
With the border between the U S & Mexico at the center of America’s immigration debate, the northern border with Canada seems to receive little attention. At nearly 9,000 km, the U S – Canada border is the world’s longest international border with more than 100 border crossings’ including 15 between the American state of Vermont & Canadian province of Quebec. Among the most frequently used crossings in this region is between the towns of DerbyLine in the US & Stanstead in Canada.
But in this area, not only does the border cut through homes & buildings, but for about half a kilometer it also runs directly down the middle of a road, now called Canusa Street, whose name is a reference to the countries it divides. It‘s the only part of the entire border that runs directly on a road. Here, your neighbors & you may not live in the same country.
After New France, the French colony in Canada was captured by the British, the governors of the two colonial regions appointed a surveyor each to determine the border between them.
Between 1771 & 1773, surveyors laid down markers along 45 the parallel ( the latitude 45 degrees north of the Equator) to designate the border. Local legend has it that these surveyors, while drunk, ended up drawing a line that deviates considerably from the 45th parallel- at some places by more than 1.5 km. No one knows for certain what went wrong but in 1783, after the American Revolutionary War, a treaty cemented this boundary.
In 1908, the U.K. & U S set up the International Boundary Commission to survey & maintain the border. At several locations along the 45th parallel, officials were unable to find the border markers &, and locals having built structures over the line, it became difficult to identify the original boundary. Though the commission cleared a path to create a discreet border & fix past mistakes, some oddities in lake Canusa Street remained
Local historians & residents say Americans & Canadians peacefully shared the area for decades , frequently crossing the border without a second thought. Stansted, for instance, provides water & sewage services to Derby Line, their fire departments work together, & children even crossed over to attend school.
But there have been drastic changes since 9/11. What was once an easy walk across the street is now a strict border crossing-residents must pass through border crossing offices on either side before crossing the road., even if it’s to run errands or visit neighbors. At the checkpoints, people must present their passports & vehicle registration if they are driving. The fine for crossing illegally is$5,000 & / or two years in jail in the U S & $1,000 in Canada.
Though it’s less common along the northern border, authorities say hundreds try to cross into the U S from Canada every year. In 2021, 916 people were apprehended or expelled at the U S -Canada border, including 365 in the Vermont Sector. Rather than cross the treacherous Rio Grande river in the South, some choose to fly to Canada & pay a smuggler to show them where to cross.