Birgit Heinbach, from South Surrey, and Ian Geddes, from Blaine, aren’t able to see each other, except in Peace Arch Park. (Aaron Hinks photo)

Birgit Heinbach, from South Surrey, and Ian Geddes, from Blaine, aren’t able to see each other, except in Peace Arch Park. (Aaron Hinks photo)

Canada-U.S. couple says 14-day quarantine makes border rules for families ‘illogical’

Despite exemption, travel restrictions still make international travel not possible for some couples

A South Surrey woman and her American husband, who live within walking distance of each other, say the newly relaxed international travel restrictions still limit spouses from seeing each other if they have jobs or other commitments.

Newlyweds Birgit Heinbach and Ian Geddes, who have been together for 11 years but married last November, live approximately seven kilometres from each other. However, the only place where they can meet is in Peace Arch Park, which some have now dubbed “Passion Park.”

The park’s Canadian parking lot was full Sunday morning as Peace Arch News interviewed the couple under the arch. Vehicles circled the lot looking for a spot as nearly a dozen tents scattered the park and hundreds of people, in small and large groups, were connecting with their American counterparts.

Geddes and Heinbach are just one of the many couples who are dealing with challenges brought on by the COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Canada closed its border with the U.S. in March. Earlier this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a “limited exemption” that would allow immediate family of Canadian citizens and permanent residents to enter Canada as long as they agree to a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

SEE ALSO: Love flourishes at Peace Arch Park, but COVID-19 concerns loom

Americans travelling north must now stay in Canada for 15 days before they return to the U.S.

Geddes, who’s an airline pilot, is still unable to visit his wife due to his professional commitment.

“I’m actually on call,” Geddes said. “So I could do it, but if I get called out and say sorry, I’m in quarantine in Canada…. I’ll get fired.”

The couple says the mandatory 14-day quarantine is their primary issue, as it makes it impossible for working professionals to have weekend trips to see each other. Geddes said there are no quarantine requirements if he were to return to the U.S.

Meanwhile, travel restrictions prohibit Heinbach from entering the U.S. by land. However, she’s allowed to fly from Vancouver to Seattle, then return home by land. She would be subject to the 14-day quarantine once she crossed back into Canada.

“I could actually walk to his house from my house,” she said. “But I can’t do that. I would have to go to Vancouver Airport and expose myself (to COVID-19), land in Seattle, expose myself, and then he has to pick me up there or fly to Bellingham, exposing myself again,” Heinbach said.

The couple says the mandatory 14-day quarantine punishes responsible couples that would otherwise agree to taking a direct route from the border to their loved one’s house.

Heinbach said if she were allowed to travel to the U.S. by land, she has no interest in shopping or sight-seeing, adding that she would even allow government officials to track her movements if required.

Geddes says he understands why there are restrictions, however, the couple is asking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and other policy makers, to put themselves in their shoes.

“I can understand it, too, though. They don’t know what people are going to do. There are people that, I’m sure they’re going to go out… If the bars are open, they’re going to go,” Geddes said.

Immigration lawyer Len Saunders, who’s based out of Blaine and has been working with the couple, says the mandatory 14-day quarantine lacks common sense.

“Why would someone, if they went down to Blaine and only went to one house, have to do a mandatory 14-day quarantine as if they travelled through 50 states?” Saunders said. “And the thing is, this is going to continue until way past the fall. And they’re going to continue doing this and it’s going to kill business on both sides of the border.”

Saunders said he’s received phone calls from couples as far away as Toronto and Cleveland, asking if it’s true that Peace Arch Park is open for international mingling.

SEE ALSO: Feds to allow immediate family to reunite in Canada, but quarantine still stands

“There are couples, and as of now, that have been separated for almost three months with no end in sight,” he said. “These are people who haven’t shared the same room for almost three months. That’s rough.”

Although there were a number of tents pitched in the park Sunday, Saunders said that erecting a tent is no longer allowed. The BC Parks website also notes that setting up enclosed tents is prohibited.

“I heard that the RCMP caught somebody who exchanged drugs in the tent and were taking it north. And so now they’ve banned tents on both sides so you can’t even pitch a tent and spend the day with your spouse,” Saunders said.

However, Saunders said he has to give credit to both governments for allowing the park to stay open.

“At least there’s some place for these spouses to meet,” he said.



aaron.hinks@peacearchnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

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

Just Posted

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the legislature, Jan. 11, 2021. (B.C. government)
Vancouver Island smashes COVID-19 high: 47 new cases in a day

Blowing past previous records, Vancouver Island is not matching B.C.s downward trend

Stand up paddleboarder Christie Jamieson kneels as a pod of transient orcas put on a dramatic show on Jan. 19 in the Ucluelet Harbour. (Nora O’Malley photo)
UPDATED: Vancouver Island paddle boarder’s orca encounter brings joy and outrage

Woman’s ‘best day’ criticized for disturbing the whales

Tofino’s library is currently located in the basement of the Tofino Legion building but talks are underway to build a brand new facility. (Andrew Bailey photo)
Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Nanaimo hospital

Two staff members and one patient have tested positive, all on the same floor

A long-term care worker receives the Pfizer vaccine at a clinic in Nanaimo earlier this month. (Island Health photo)
All Island seniors in long-term care will be vaccinated by the end of this weekend

Immunization of high-risk population will continue over the next two months

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

Comox Valley RCMP are looking for witnesses after the theft of a generator worth thousands of dollars. Photo supplied
RCMP asking Vancouver Island residents to watch for stolen generator

Vehicle may have been travelling on Highway 19

Most Read