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

Just Posted

A dogs in parks pilot study unanimously approved by Saanich council will evaluate how park space can best be shared between dog owners and non-owners alike. (Photo by Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Saanich to study park-sharing strategy between those with and without pets

District-wide People, Parks and Dogs study to produce recommendations by fall

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.’s Indigenous language, art and culture

North Saanich advisor says initiative supports urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

General manager Lindsey Pomper says Sidney’s Star Cinema cannot wait welcome audiences when it reopens June 18, amid an easing of public health measures. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Sidney’s Star Cinema raises curtain for the first time after months in the darkness

Iconic theatre to reopen at half capacity for Friday night showing

Staff member Lena Laitinen gives the wall at BoulderHouse a workout during a media tour on June 16. (Rick Stiebel/News Staff)
BoulderHouse raring to rock Langford

Popularity of bouldering continues to climb across Greater Victoria

The Sooke Potholes is a jewel in the community's crown. Transition Sooke hosts a town hall meeting on community growth on June 26. (Courtesy: Sooke News Mirror)
Sooke forum tackles community growth

To Grow or Not to Grow online town hall meeting set for June 26

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: When was the last time you visited the mainland?

The films are again lighting the screens at local theatres, the wine… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of June 15

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Most Read