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

Loop Energy’s first engineer, Vance Chou (right), working with a National Research Council colleague to test one of the first fuel-cell prototypes at the Institute for Fuel Cell Innovation in 2002. (Loop Energy photos)
Loop Energy: Chilliwack fuel-cell startup hits bumps on road to success

This is part two of a 3-part series on the rise of Loop Energy, now being traded publicly on the TSX

Dawn Haig, manager of Save-On-Foods Cottonwood location, said they are “one hundred per cent” ready to open on Thursday, March 4, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Fourth Chilliwack Save-On-Foods 100% ready to open Thursday, says store manager

More than 100 jobs created at new 38,000-square foot grocery store location at Cottonwood Centre

(Black Press file photo)
Homicide team to look into death of 11-year-old Harrison Mills boy

Agassiz RCMP were called out Friday to assist with a child in medical distress

Rendering of proposed homeless shelter and supportive housing facility on Rowat Avenue and Trethewey Avenue in Chilliwack. (BC Housing)
Supportive housing and shelter proposed to replace the Portal in Chilliwack

Province looking to fast-track hybrid proposal for 50 supportive homes and 40 shelter spaces

A real estate sold sign hangs in front of a Canadian property Friday, Nov. 4, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy.
Fraser Valley Real Estate Board breaks sales records 6 months in a row

‘Levels never seen before in the 100-year history of the FVREB’

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

B.C.’s court of appeal in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Kootenay man appeals 7-year conviction for New Year’s Eve kidnapping, beating

Brandon Coons, 27, was convicted on five charges, including assault with a weapon

An investigation is underway after two VPD officers were recorded posing for pictures near a dead body at Third Beach on Feb. 24. (Screen grab/Zachary Ratcliff)
Vancouver officers placed on desk duty after filmed posing next to dead body

Pair put in ‘non-deployable, admin positions’ as the investigation into their conduct continues

Vancouver Giants president, governor and majority owner Ron Toigo welcomed the provincial announcement made on Monday, Mar. 1, 2021 that the province could soon allow WHL teams to resume competitive play. (Vancouver Giants/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Return to play news welcomed by Vancouver Giants team

rOwner, coach and players pleased by report WHL could soon resume play in B.C.

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Surrey RCMP are investigating a reported assault at Panorama Ridge Secondary. (Shane MacKichan photos)
UPDATE: Third youth arrested after assault with weapon at Panorama Ridge Secondary in Surrey

School placed on a ‘hold and secure’ until safety of all students confirmed

A publicly accessible defibrillator as well as naloxone and first aid kits are included in a stand that has been installed at Crescent Beach. It is one of two planned for the South Surrey neighbourhood as St. John Ambulance works to install 1,000 of the life-saving devices around the province. (Contributed photo)
St. John Ambulance aims to install 1,000 publicly accessible AEDs across B.C.

Sponsors sought for stands that cost about $8,000 to equip and install

Left: Oakland County Jail. Right: Canuck Todd Bertuzzi on November 2, 2005. (CP/Chuck Stoody)
Former Vancouver Canuck Todd Bertuzzi arrested for suspected DUI: report

The Canadian winger had a complicated history in the NHL

Most Read