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Liberal MLAs call on B.C., Washington state to close Peace Arch Park amid increase in tents

Click to play video: 'Calls to close south side of Peace Arch Park' Calls to close south side of Peace Arch Park
Two Surrey Liberal MLAs are calling on Premier John Horgan to ask the Governor of Washington State to close off the U.S. Portion of Peace Arch Park, over concerns people are still gathering there. Horgan says the issue is a Federal one. Richard Zussman reports – Feb 10, 2021

The BC Liberals are calling on the B.C. government to work to shut down the only park in the country allowing camping for American and Canadian visitors amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Surrey MLAs Stephanie Cadieux and Trevor Halford urged Premier John Horgan to call on Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to close public access to Peace Arch Park on the U.S. side until it is deemed safe for non-essential cross-border travel.

There has been a recent spike in permanent tents in the park and a subsequent rise in neighbours’ complaints of people disregarding public health guidelines.

The park is on U.S. soil, but has always been treated as a neutral area where visitors from either country are not required to quarantine or produce a negative COVID-19 test, unlike cross-border travellers arriving by air or land.

Read more: Canada to require negative COVID-19 test at land borders next week

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“At a time when COVID-19 variants could spread quickly, it’s more critical than ever to take action to protect our communities,” Halford, the MLA for Surrey-White Rock, said Wednesday.

“Countless constituents have been reaching out to us, concerned for their safety, as Canadians and Americans continue to take advantage of an unwritten loophole that allows for face-to-face contact at Peace Arch Park, only to return home without being subject to Canadian quarantine laws and Provincial Health Orders.”

Click to play video: 'Concerns raised over trans-border weddings in Washington state’s Peace Arch Park' Concerns raised over trans-border weddings in Washington state’s Peace Arch Park
Concerns raised over trans-border weddings in Washington state’s Peace Arch Park – Sep 9, 2020

Halford and Cadieux said area residents have reported busy streets and more than 75 tents pitched over the weekend, with people coming in from either side of the border and many without masks.

So far, Washington officials have not shown any willingness to close the U.S. side, while the Canadian side has been closed since June.

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Click to play video: 'Cross-border visits cut off at Peace Arch Park' Cross-border visits cut off at Peace Arch Park
Cross-border visits cut off at Peace Arch Park – Jun 18, 2020

 

At a news conference on Wednesday, Horgan told reporters that the park is not provincial or state jurisdiction and any decision would need to be made by the federal government.

He also said B.C. health officials have not recorded any COVID-19 transmission events connected with visits at the park.

“Dr. (Bonnie) Henry has not raised it with me that it’s a concern and if at the end of this press conference, I’ve got a voicemail from her that tells me otherwise I’m happy to get back to you,” Horgan said.

“But my sense is that we want to encourage people to have good behaviour and if the people who are coming from the south to the U.S. side of Peace Arch and meeting with their loved ones for brief visits, I’m reluctant to get in the way of that.”

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