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Canadian drivers with U.S. licence plates harassed by fellow Canadians


Some Canadians driving cars with U.S. licence plates say they’ve endured vandalism, harassment and even a minor assault from fellow Canadians convinced that they’re Americans illegally in Canada. 

Lisa Watt said she was harassed twice in Calgary last month — she believes because of her Texas licence plates. 

In one incident, she said a driver stopped right behind her car in a parking lot and glared at her, and in another situation, a driver tailgated her car for several kilometres before pulling up beside her and flipping her the finger. 

“It made me angry,” said Watt, a Canadian citizen who moved to Houston in 2000 for work. She drove to Calgary in June to visit her 84-year-old mother, who was feeling isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I’m here to help my mother. I have every right to be here.”

To help stop the spread of the coronavirus, the Canada-U.S. land border remains closed to non-essential traffic. As a result, some Canadians are alarmed when they spot cars with U.S. licence plates, especially as COVID-19 cases south of the border escalate.

There is reason for concern. Alberta RCMP said that since mid-June, they have fined 10 Americans $1,200 each after they sneaked in to Banff National Park. 

RCMP have issued 10 tickets to Americans since mid-June at Banff National Park. There are legitimate reasons for a U.S.-plated vehicle in Canada during the pandemic but stopping to see the sights is not one of them. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Americans are allowed to drive straight through Canada to Alaska for work or to return home, but they can’t stop in Banff — or anywhere else — to see the sights.

However, not all drivers of cars with U.S. plates in Canada are breaking the rules. 

Watt wants Albertans to know she’s a patriotic Canadian who’s taking every precaution while in the country. She self-quarantined for 14 days when arriving in Calgary and wears a face mask in stores. 

She said both incidents of harassment happened on June 21, the day she finished her quarantine and headed to town to run errands.

Watt, right, and her mother, Maureen, pictured in Calgary. (Submitted by Maureen Watt)

‘You can’t judge a book by its cover’

As a result of her experiences, Watt started driving her mother’s car — which has Alberta plates. 

“I’m a little afraid to leave my car parked anywhere for fear somebody does something to it,” she said. “I’d like people to understand that people with U.S. licence plates have legitimate reasons for being here.”

Mayor Phil Harding of the Township of Muskoka Lakes also wants to spread that message. 

“You can’t judge a book by its cover,” said Harding, whose township is part of the Muskoka region, a vacation hot spot in Ontario. 

The mayor said he recently heard from several Canadians with U.S.-plated cars in the region, who claimed they were accused of being Americans unlawfully in Canada.

“‘You shouldn’t be here. Americans aren’t allowed. How did you…



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