Friday, September 29, 2023

In a time of pandemic, love is in the air on Canada-US border

VANCOUVER: Christina Kelly did not picture marrying her American sweetheart in the Peace Arch Park – a 42-acre (17-hectare) stretch of manicured lawns and neatly trimmed garden beds at an otherwise unremarkable border crossing in the Pacific Northwest.

Kelly, a 28-year-old Canadian legal assistant from Vancouver, had been crossing back and forth between British Columbia and Washington state to see her boyfriend without a hitch for two years. The start of the coronavirus pandemic, and the closure of the Canada-US border in March 2020, forced a change of plans. Where many couples have reluctantly put off weddings, Kelly and her now-husband, who is in the US Navy, decided to proceed anyway and tied the knot two months ago in the one place where they have been able to see each other during the past year.

“We would have gotten married at some point,” she said. “But (COVID-19) had to speed things up.”It “wasn’t my ideal wedding,” Kelly said, recalling how she shivered in her white wedding dress in the cold and muddy park, as her mother, the groom’s mother and some of the couple’s friends from both sides of the border looked on.

But she now realizes that it was, in some ways, the perfect setting. “The park has been my life for the past year, (the only place) where I can see my husband. For us to be able to get married there, it was very memorable.”

In pre-pandemic times the Peace Arch Park was little more than a pit stop for travelers and commercial traffic as well as a picturesque picnic spot where families from nearby border towns gathered.

With the closure of the border last year, a move that initially barred all but essential workers from crossing, the park has become a lifeline for couples in cross-border relationships.

British Columbia closed its side of the park in June, but the American side remains open. Canadians are able to enter Washington state by parking in a residential area and walking about half a mile (800 meters) before crossing a shallow ditch dividing the two sides. It was not immediately clear why Canadian residents are still permitted to come back into the country via the US side of the park without having to comply with Canada’s border measures, including mandatory negative COVID-19 tests and a 14-day quarantine. Public Safety Canada, the ministry responsible for border security, referred media to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who said visitors to the park “should expect to adhere” to mandatory quarantine orders, and that their Federal Border Integrity Program had “increased enforcement of the area.”

Source: The News

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