Quebec residents frustrated with police checkpoints at Ontario-Quebec crossings near Pembroke

At the provincial border crossing between Ontario and Quebec near Pembroke, Ont., residents of the small border community of Chapeau say the police checkpoints are ineffective and disruptive.

"We’ve been told that essential services are something that we all have a right to," says Kiersten Smith, a resident of the small island community in Quebec.

"The fact that we’re an island lends itself to that we travel to Pembroke for everything. That’s where my banking is, my oil changes, my grocery, my pharmacy. I work in Ontario, my husband works in Ontario."

Smith says they are allowed to pass through the checkpoints into Ontario for work purposes or if they are picking up a prescription from a pharmacy, but not to pick up other items like groceries.

"They said that we can’t go over for our groceries anymore and that we have to go to the Quebec side," says Smith. "I’ve never shopped over here for my groceries, it’s a further grocery store."

Fellow Chapeau resident Marielle Lair has experienced the same hassle when trying to buy food every week.

"We do have a small grocery store in our area but it doesn’t have everything that we need," says Lair.

"When I have to go over to get my weekly grocery order, I have to lie and I have to say I’m that I’m going to pick up prescriptions," says Smith.

The crossing near Pembroke on Highway 148 is one of four Ontario-Quebec checkpoints being monitored by Ontario Provincial Police. The other three are Chenaux Road in Renfrew County, the John Street Bridge in Hawkesbury, and Highway 401 in Bainsville.

The OPP say the checkpoints are monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and are expected to remain in place until at least June 16.

"We’re rural on this side, so our services really and truly are in Pembroke, Ont., and I speak for a majority of the residents on the island," says Smith. "We just don’t have the infrastructure or the services on this side to service our needs."

The frustration really sets in when the residents see vehicles with Ontario licence plates regularly entering Quebec. With the checkpoints originally set up to slow the spread of COVID-19, Lair says they are not working.

"People come over here because of cheap beer and cigarettes. As well as we have a lot of lakes and fishing opportunities for people. There’s no consistency and people with Ontario plates can come and go as they please and we can’t."