People meet on the American side of Peace Arch Park Tuesday afternoon. (Aaron Hinks photo)

People meet on the American side of Peace Arch Park Tuesday afternoon. (Aaron Hinks photo)

‘Loophole’ allows U.S.-Canadian citizens to continue to meet at Peace Arch Park

According to immigration lawyer Len Saunders, there’s nothing the province can do about it

A Blaine immigration lawyer says the closure of the Canadian side of Peace Arch Park may have caused more headaches for the B.C. government than it solved.

The provincial government closed access to Peace Arch Park June 18. For many international couples and people who have family in the United States, the international park was the only place they could reconnect.

RELATED: Peace Arch Park closure ‘heartbreaking’

However, the U.S. did not reciprocate B.C.’s closure, instead allowing Americans and Canadians to interact on the U.S. side of the park, which is accessible by crossing a ditch on 0 Avenue near 170 Street.

Technically, immigration lawyer Len Saunders told Peace Arch News, if you cross the ditch to enter the park, you aren’t entering the U.S.

He said he spoke to both U.S. Customs Border Protection and Canada Border Services Agency officers and they don’t care if people cross the ditch to enter the park.

“It was fascinating the amount of people that were just hopping back and forth over the ditch in like 45 minutes. I think I saw one RCMP cruiser go by, but even then, what are they going to do?” said Saunders, who was there Monday (June 29).

“There’s no way they can prevent people from crossing the ditch unless CBSA says that people are entering Canada illegally from the U.S.”

A representative from the CBSA told PAN Tuesday that policing that section of the border is the responsibility of the RCMP.

Contacted Tuesday, Surrey RCMP did not provide comment by PAN press deadline.

A CBP representative told PAN the American side of the park is managed by the State of Washington, adding that CBP monitors Peace Arch Park to ensure individuals do not use it as a means to illegally enter the U.S.

“It’s going to drive the province of B.C. crazy because there’s nothing they can do to stop it,” Saunders said.

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

One way to prevent Canadians from accessing the park would be to build a fence, but Saunders said that isn’t legal.

Saunders said he bumped into a park ranger at Peace Arch Park and was told that Canada cannot legally build a fence or barricade around the park because it would violate the Treaty of Ghent, which was signed in 1814.

Saunders said the Treaty of Ghent says that if the Canada violates its terms, America gains ownership of parts of Southern Ontario and Quebec. If the Americans violate the clause, Canada gets ownership of parts of Maine, Michigan and Wisconsin.

An alternative way to stop the visits is for America to close Peace Arch Park, but Saunders suspects that’s unlikely.

“Do you think Jay Inslee, the governor (of Washington), is going to close down one park? The Americans don’t care. They don’t care about Canadians coming down here,” Saunders said.

Shutting of the park has caused issues – particularly around parking – for the neighbourhood just north of 0 Avenue near 170 Street.

“They created a worse issue by closing down the park,” Saunders said.

Peace Park Drive resident Rick Robinson says the residential streets don’t have enough parking to support the visitors, causing frustrations in the neighbourhood.

“People come along and park right in front of your house. If a guy happens to be working an afternoon shift and comes home, they can’t even park in front of their own house. Or parking in people’s yards and just leaving the car, not even asking about it,” Robinson said.

“I’ve sat in front of my house…. and stopped people from parking so I could get my car out if I wanted. I put orange cones up in front of my house and they parked between them,” he said.

Robinson said he’s noticed an increased police presence along the border, particularly “ghost cars.”

He has also seen suspicious activity.

“I’m quite sure that people have been handing stuff off to each other because I’ve seen people parking on my street and bringing stuff back that they didn’t have when they went,” he said.

Robinson said international couples hurt themselves by setting up tents in the park, despite signs advising them not to, and by not practising social distancing while visiting each other.

“We know that they’re not playing cards in those tents,” he said.

“You shouldn’t be able to walk across the park and kiss your sweetheart. Love is love, but a law is a law.”



aaron.hinks@peacearchnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Coronavirus

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

 

People meet on the American side of Peace Arch Park Tuesday afternoon. (Aaron Hinks photo)

People meet on the American side of Peace Arch Park Tuesday afternoon. (Aaron Hinks photo)

Just Posted

Items collected from last year’s Ocean Park Food Drive. (Contributed file photo)
Ocean Park Food Drive expands, open to residents south of 32 Avenue

Homeowners south of 32 Avenue and west of 160 Street encouraged to put donations on doorstep

(Black Press Media files)
‘Potentially damaging’ winds expected in Metro Vancouver

Wind is expected to pick up late Sunday night

Bella Coola RCMP are alerting residents that the road between 4 Mile subdivision and downtown will be closed until at least tomorrow. (File image)
Missing man found safe, Surrey RCMP said

Riley Arnold- Higgenbottom was last seen at 1:30 p.m., Nov. 28 in the 18900-block of 69 A Avenue

An animated Gordie Hogg introduces his 'Community Connections' videos. (YouTube screenshot)
Community Connections: Gordie Hogg speaks with Kathy McIntyre

Former mayor, MP began posting conversations on YouTube in June

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

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

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Langley RCMP issued a $2,300 fine to the Riverside Calvary church in Langley in the 9600 block of 201 Street for holding an in-person service on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, despite a provincial COVID-19 related ban (Dan Ferguson/Black Press Media)
Updated: Langley church fined for holding in-person Sunday service

Calvary church was fined $2,300 for defying provincial order

The Abbotsford Police Department is investigating a shooting on Adair Avenue on Saturday night. (Photo by Dale Klippenstein)
Drive-by shooting in Abbotsford targeted home with young children, police say

Investigators believe home was mistakenly targeted by assailants

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

Most Read