A woman living in Piney says she is hoping and praying that Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) will not reduce hours at the Piney crossing.

CBSA had indicated that beginning November 26th, the new hours at the Piney crossing were supposed to be 9 am to 5 pm, when currently that crossing is open from 9 am to 10 pm. The hours of operation at Tolstoi would be 8 am to 8 pm during the summer and 8 am to 6 pm between Labour Day and Victoria Day. Currently, the Tolstoi crossing is open from 8 am to 10 pm. And at South Junction, the new hours were supposed to be 8 am to 8 pm, instead of 8 am to midnight, as is currently offered.

"I was very upset," says Deb Derbowka, referring to her reaction when she learned of the reduced hours.

Derbowka lives about one mile from the Piney crossing. Derbowka says on average she probably crosses at Piney nearly once per week. With Roseau only a twenty-minute drive south, she says they do everything there from shopping and socializing to receiving medical services. And Derbowka says the people of Roseau are like family to her.

"You just have a connection, you start to know the people," she says. "I was hospitalized a few times in Roseau and you get to know people."

Prior to CBSA announcing the reduced hours, it held town hall meetings. Derbowka says in no way were these meetings intended as a way for the Agency to get feedback from locals.

"There was no consultation before this all happened," she says. "It was, 'hi, we're here on this date, we will have the meeting with you but it's already written in stone.'"

Derbowka says the meetings were similar to those held in spring south of the border when the Americans decided to reduce their hours.

A reduction in hours at the three border crossings did not happen on November 26th, as expected. Provencher Member of Parliament Ted Falk received confirmation that day from the Minister of Public Safety that they would review this decision and that no changes would be made until there is proper community consultation.

Bev Robb also lives at Piney. Her story is a little different. Robb's husband has worked at Polaris in Roseau for 18 years and uses the Piney border crossing at least five times every week. Robb says her doctor is in Roseau, plus she has family there and so she crosses about four times every week.

Robb admits she was very unhappy when she first heard the crossing hours were being reduced. She has extensive medical issues and says she needs to be able to get to the hospital in Roseau during normal hours and for emergencies. Robb says she has heard of babies being born inside vehicles as expecting mothers travel from Piney to Steinbach in the middle of the night, rather than having the luxury of making the quick trip south to Roseau.

But not only that, Robb says there is nothing to do around Piney and so Roseau suddenly becomes a destination for people seeking entertainment or to do their shopping.

If it is only a matter of time before border crossing times are reduced, Robb says the driving habits of people in her community will change. She notes there are some people that would stop going to Roseau because a return trip through Warroad is just too long. This could then have a ripple effect on their health as they would be less likely to drive around Warroad for their medical services. Some people would also then visit their family south of the border less, while others will be spending more on gas by travelling a greater distance to do their shopping.

Both Derbowka and Robb say they are familiar with residents of Piney who were locked out of Canada earlier this week. Even though border crossing hours at Piney were not changed on November 26th, it appears someone forgot to notify the Americans. As a result, the Americans closed their northbound gates before the Canadian ports were closed. This meant some Manitobans were stuck behind a closed gate, even though the Customs office was still open. Provencher MP Ted Falk credits Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale for acting quickly after being informed of the matter.

Read More:

Situation Corrected At South Junction, Piney And Tolstoi Border Crossings

Reduced Border Crossing Hours Put On Hold

Falk Unhappy That CBSA Is Not Listening

Full House For Piney Border Meeting