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

The RCMP arrest one of the suspects on Highway 97 courtesy of cell phone footage shot by a bystander. (April Thomas photo)
WATCH: Two suspects arrested after multi-jurisdictional chase

A half dozen police cars were seen heading north on Highway 97

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Interior Health reports 16 new COVID-19 cases

423 cases remain active in the region

(Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Murder charge laid in February 2020 stabbing death of Smithers man

Michael Egenolf is charged with the second-degree murder of Brodie Cumiskey

A man wearing a mask against coronavirus walks past an NHS advertisement about COVID-19 in London, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
92 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths: Interior Health

The region is reporting 92 cases after the weekend

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

The area on Cordova Bay Road where ancestral human remains were discovered Feb. 22. (Submitted photo)
Human remains discovery a reminder of B.C. Indigenous culture dug up and displaced

‘These are the people who inspired and birthed the generations that we now have here’

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

Kamloops This Week
Cause of Kamloops landfill fire may never be known

Fire investigators are dealing with too much destruction in too large an area

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

The incident happened in downtown Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
Castlegar teen recounts stabbing after stranger breaks into grandmother’s house

The unnamed teen survived a terrifying attack Feb. 21

Most Read