The island Canada forgot: On Campobello, citizens are left exiles in their own land
With no ferry service, the only access to mainland Canada is through the United States. Victoria Matthews can understand the attraction of Campobello Island, N.B., to an outsider. It can seem a magical place, with rocky coastlines, dramatic ocean vistas, big tides, bogs, lichen-shrouded forests, clams to dig for and wild blueberries to pick by the bucketful come summer.
There are lighthouses, seabirds, breaching whales and, for history buffs, a star attraction: Roosevelt Campobello International Park, 1,134-hectares centred around the family cottage of former president Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor.
There are also the locals, about 800 or so permanent residents, such as Matthews. They hold community fundraising suppers, watch out for their neighbours and welcome scads of mostly American cottagers and tourists who stream across the Roosevelt International Bridge from Lubec, Maine.
But despite Campobello’s postcard-worthy attributes, the 23-year-old Matthews has pretty much had it with the place. It’s not that the island doesn’t feel like home. It’s that Campobello makes her feel as though she is a Canadian living in exile — physically, politically, practically, medically and economically separated from the rest of the country — which, more or less, she is since the bridge is the island’s only physical link to mainland North America and it’s not to Canada.
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