In a symbol of unity between nations, the Surrey RCMP and Washington State Patrol held a private ceremony Tuesday morning to raise U.S. and Canadian flags at the Peace Arch in South Surrey.
The flags that usually fly on top of the arch were taken down earlier this year as the Peace Arch received a cleaning and a new coat of paint from Canada. Every 10 years, the Peace Arch undergoes a “face-lift,” with the two nations taking turns doing the improvements.
The initial plan was to have a public ceremony on Sept. 6 as a way to count down the Sept. 6, 2021 Peace Arch Centennial Celebration. However, COVID-19 pushed back the refurbishment schedule and restrictions made it impossible to host a public event.
The International Peace Arch Association organized Tuesday’s event and kicked off the ‘Peace Arch Centennial Flags’ program.
Every few months for the next year, a different public service organization, such as the CBSA and CBP, will replace the flags on the arch.
After the flags are flown, they are to be transported across both countries and flown at significant government buildings, such as the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa.
What was special about Tuesday’s event was that while the Washington State Patrol and RCMP have a long history of participating in various programs at Peace Arch Park, where children raise the flags, officers have never before had the chance to do it themselves.
“After being such good stewards of the arch for so many years, it made sense to actually give them that honour,” International Peace Arch Association founder Christina Winkler told Peace Arch News.
While Tuesday’s event was not open to the public, the association had a small film crew documenting it.
“We’re hoping to capture an inspirational moment for not just us here locally, but for all Americans and Canadians. The Peace Arch has an appeal to many, many people,” Winkler said.
While the Canadian side of Peace Arch Park is closed to the public, the American side has been open for Canadians and Americans to mingle.
An “unintended consequence” of COVID-19, Winkler said, is that the U.S. and Canada border closure has renewed interest in the park from coast-to-coast.
“We have a whole new diverse audience,” she said. “You have people from across the nations discovering it and coming out here, specifically, to meet a loved one or to get married.”
“For the neighbourhood, that’s a different story.”