South Surrey resident John Kageorge describes this small tent city that sprang up on the U.S. side of Peace Arch Park last summer as a ‘typical weekend.’ RCMP confirm they have stepped up enforcement along the portion of the international boundary where Canadians have been free to come and go across a narrow ditch while the border remains closed to non-essential travel. (John Kageorge file photo)

South Surrey resident John Kageorge describes this small tent city that sprang up on the U.S. side of Peace Arch Park last summer as a ‘typical weekend.’ RCMP confirm they have stepped up enforcement along the portion of the international boundary where Canadians have been free to come and go across a narrow ditch while the border remains closed to non-essential travel. (John Kageorge file photo)

B.C. MLAs call on premier to ask U.S. to shut down Peace Arch Park

More than 75 tents pitched at park over weekend

After South Surrey residents counted more than 75 tents pitched in Peace Arch Park last weekend, and with even more expected this Sunday – Valentine’s Day – South Surrey and White Rock MLAs are calling on the premier to work with the governor of Washington State to close the American side of the park.

The Canadian side of the park has been closed as a safety measure to prevent large gatherings in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic declaration in March. But the State Park, on the U.S. side, has remained open through the summer, fall and winter, providing a daily site for wedding parties, family reunions and celebrations of all kinds. The U.S. State Park closes in the evening.

RELATED: Canadian-U.S. couple embrace only option to meet – Peace Arch Park

While the park is one of the only places in the country where Canadians can freely mingle with Americans without technically crossing the border, the American park has been a point of frustration for South Surrey neighbours for months. Visiting the park as a Canadian is considered by many to be a loophole.

Surrey South MLA Stephanie Cadieux and Surrey-White Rock MLA Trevor Halford, both members of the BC Liberals, jointly signed a letter to BC Premier John Horgan asking him to “call on” Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee to close the American side of Peace Arch Park until it is deemed safe for non-essential cross border travel.

“Countless constituents who live close to the border have contacted our offices commenting that they feel unsafe. They are concerned with the increase of Canadian visitors to the park who are returning to our province without being force to quarantine,” the MLAs wrote to the premier.

“Currently, Washington State officials have not shown any willingness to close the American side of the park to help limit the number of people who gather.”

Halford told Peace Arch News that he expects activity in the park to pick up come Valentines Day.

RELATED: ‘It looked like Woodstock’: More than 85 tents pitched in Peace Arch Park

“At a time when COVID-19 variants could spread quickly, it’s more critical than ever to take action to protect our communities,” Halford said in a release.

Asked about enforcement of Canadians returning from the park in November, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said she often hears from people with concerns.

“As you know, there are people who monitor that park, the border itself is a federal jurisdiction and I know that they have enhanced patrols in that area. I’m not aware of any (COVID-19) cases related to people meeting outdoors at that park,” Henry said.

Aside from COVID-19 concerns, residents have also contacted PAN over the last number of months to take issue with congestion and lack of parking in the South Surrey neighbourhood due to the spike in park activity. Last year, Blaine immigration lawyer Len Saunders said he’s received phone calls from couples as far away as Toronto and Cleveland, asking if it’s true that Peace Arch Park is open for international mingling.

RELATED: South Surrey woman upset at being told to quarantine after ‘two-minute visit’ in Peace Arch Park

While Canadians can move freely to and from the U.S. side of the park, RCMP officers on the Canadian side can instruct a returning Canadian to report to CBSA.

The CBSA can, and has, subjected returning Canadians to a 14-day quarantine, regardless of how long the person spent in Peace Arch Park.

In October, South Surrey’s Birgit Heinbach told PAN she was sent to CBSA after spending two minutes in the park. CBSA officers instructed her to quarantine for 14 days.

At the time, CBSA told PAN all travellers seeking entry into Canada, “no matter where or what mode of entry,” must report to CBSA and may be subject to quarantine measures.



aaron.hinks@peacearchnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

BC governmentCoronavirusState of Washington

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A special committee has been appointed to look at reforming B.C.’s police act and is inviting the public to make submissions until April 30, 2021. (Black Press media file)
Public input sought for B.C.’s police act review

Submissions will be accepted until April 30

A Williams Lake area family living on Knife Creek Road lost everything to a house fire on Wednesday, March 3. (Photo submitted)
House fire destroys rural family home south of Williams Lake

The Macdonalds built their home on Knife Creek Road about 30 years ago

International Women’s Day is March 8, 2021. (Internationalwomensday.com)
International Women’s Day 2021: #choosetochallenge

International Women’s Day is marked annually on March 8

Amanda Parsons, a registered nurse on staff at the Northwood Care facility, prepares a dose of the Moderna vaccine in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. Almost two in three Canadians surveyed recently said they trust COVID-19 vaccines to be both safe and effective. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Northern Health to open 30 COVID vaccine clinics for oldest residents, Indigenous seniors

Health authority says it plans to vaccinate nearly 15,000 people in Phase Two

Whitewater kayaking on the Quesnel River is enjoyed by many travellers seeking adventure in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast region. (Greg Sabatino photo)
MAYOR’S COLUMN: Maximizing Quesnel’s natural strengths

Mayor Bob Simpson looks at Quesnel’s branding efforts

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Cottonwoods Care Home in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
New COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna care home includes fully vaccinated seniors: Henry

Two staff and 10 residents tested positive at Cottonwoods Care Centre

Excerpts from a conversation between Bria Fisher and the fake truLOCAL job. Fisher had signed a job agreement and was prepared to start work for what she thought was truLOCAL before she learned it was a scam. (Contributed)
B.C. woman warning others after losing $3,000 in job scam

Bria Fisher was hired by what she thought was a Canadian company, only to be out thousands

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provide a regular update on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, March 2, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 cases: 545 Saturday, 532 Sunday, 385 Monday

Focus on Prince Rupert, Lower Mainland large workplaces

Rising accident rates and payout costs have contributed to billion-dollar deficits at ICBC. (Comox Valley Record)
B.C. appealing decision keeping ICBC injury cases in court

David Eby vows to ‘clip wings’ of personal injury lawyers

(Black Press Media files)
Hosts charged, attendees facing COVID fines after Vancouver police bust party at condo

Police had previously received 10 complaints about that condo

Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen takes part in an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. A joint federal and B.C. government housing program announced today aims to help people living in up to 25,000 vulnerable households pay their rent. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Federal, B.C. governments announce $517-million rent aid program to help vulnerable

Benefits for those not eligible for B.C.’s Rental Assistance Program or Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters

(BC SPCA)
Is it safe to give your dog some peanut butter? Not always, BC SPCA warns

Some commercial peanut butter ingredients can be harmful to dogs

Most Read