GeoCarta Has Moved

Apr 14, 2007

Couple in Border Skirmish With Government Agency

Shirley-Ann Leu lives the quiet life of a retiree in Blaine, Wash. So you can imagine her surprise when a government official showed up at her home and accused the 71-year-old of violating an international treaty. Ms. Leu's offense was the construction of a retaining wall to shore up her property.

The government official was with the International Boundary Commission (IBC) which contends the wall violates the treaty that established the border between the United States and Canada.

More from the Globe and Mail:

In 1925 a treaty established the IBC on a permanent basis and included in its mandate a requirement to ensure that a "boundary vista" is maintained by keeping the border line clear. The IBC, a joint body with separate offices and staff in each country, can regulate all construction within three metres of either side the boundary.

The Leu retaining wall, which cost about $18,000 to build, is about half a metre inside the zone overseen by the IBC.

"When he told me I was violating the treaty I said, 'No, no, no, can't you see this is in the United States?' He said, 'I'm sorry, you have to move your wall back 2½ feet.' "

With the assistance of the Pacific Legal Foundation, a property rights organization, Ms. Leu and her husband have sued the IBC to block demolition of their wall. The suit also seeks a declaration that the "boundary vista" policy is unconstitutionally vague.

The Leu's also claim it is unfair for the IBC to require the demolition of the wall when the IBC claims to have seen construction start in October, 2006, but didn't tell them they were violating the boundary vista until after the wall was completed in January.

See also: Insufficient Funds Means Indiscernible Border.