Despite Canadian closure, cross-border meet-ups continue at Peace Arch Park

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While the U.S./Canada border remains closed, Peace Arch Park has been a meeting point for many families and couples separated by the border. B.C. officials closed the Canadian side of the park on June 18 due to claims of overcrowding and safety concerns. However, there is yet another loophole that allows loved ones to continue to meet on the American side of the park.

After the War of 1812, a battle between the U.S. and Britain over a violation of maritime rights, the two countries signed the Treaty of Ghent in 1814. During the war, some American territory was besieged by the British colony of Canada while some Canadian territory was taken by Americans. But when the treaty was signed, ending the war, the two parties agreed to return to pre-war boundaries under the condition that neither country can erect a barrier within 10 feet of the border.

This condition remains to this day, which is why Canadians are unable to stop their citizens from crossing into the neutral Peace Arch Park. Though the Canadian side of the park is closed, including the parking lot, Canadians may still enter the American side by walking across 0 Avenue, which borders the park on the American side. However, with 20 acres less land and nowhere to park, overcrowding will be more of an issue than before, said Blaine immigration attorney Len Saunders.

“I think they’ve put themselves in a difficult position, they’ve created more of a problem, which I don’t think legally they can stop under the treaty,” Saunders said.

If the Canadian government were to put up a fence on 0 Avenue, it would be in violation of the treaty and would lose parts of Canada that were besieged during the War of 1812, according to Saunders. The only way to stop traffic to the park would be to close the American side, which doesn’t seem likely, Saunders said.

For some folks separated by the border, this newfound loophole was great news, especially after the Canadian side of the park closed. B.C. resident Kaelynn Ball and her American fiancé David Hogsten spent last weekend reuniting at Peace Arch Park. Ball walked to the park from her nearby home, crossing a ditch on 0 Avenue, while Hogsten flew in from Maryland to meet her. The couple, who met online in 2018, got engaged a week before Covid-19 shut down their respective countries. This was their first time seeing each other in
person since.

“We’re happy to see each other, to be outside moving around, and to see him is a blessing and a privilege,” Ball said.

The connection betwee the couple was evident as they clutched each other’s hand, a reminder that even a border closure can’t stop love.

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