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'Dangerous' COVID-19 border loophole sees dozens of B.C. residents visit with Americans in tents

At Peace Arch Park, B.C. residents are able to cross the border and visit with Americans and not be subject to a mandatory quarantine period. (via Twitter/@Generallee44)

It’s a tent city of a different kind and a so-called loophole that allows Canadians to visit Americans amidst burgeoning COVID-19 cases on either side of the B.C. border.

On the U.S. side of Peace Arch Park this past weekend, dozens of gatherings and tents were observed by residents.

John Kageorge, who lives across from the Canadian side of the park which was closed in June, told Glacier Media he believes the State Park is currently more dangerous than ever.

“Multiple gatherings are happening routinely – including reunions, birthday parties, and even weddings,” Kageorge attested.

“People come there fully dressed for big occasions,” he said. “It’s a very full park."

This has proved particularly concerning for Kageorge and neighbours, who are observing a new ban on gatherings put into effect to address rising COVID-19 cases in the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions.

“It is more dangerous than I have ever seen it,” Kageorge added, “It’s a ridiculous loophole.”

Dr. Bonnie Henry unaware of COVID-19 cases at park

When probed during a live press conference by a reporter Monday about quarantine enforcement of Canadians returning from the U.S. park area, Henry said she often hears from people with concerns.

“There are people who monitor that park, the border itself is a federal jurisdiction and I know that they have enhanced patrols in that area,” said the doctor.

Henry said she's not aware of any COVID-19 case transmissions related to people meeting at the park.

The tents are reportedly cleared out each night as the park closes, Kageorge said.

Loophole sees Canadians not subject to quarantine

“Canadians and Americans who enter the park and return to the country from which they entered the park have technically not made entry to the other country and therefore are not processed by immigration authorities,” explained U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokesperson Jason Givens.

He added that CBP constantly monitors Peace Arch Park to ensure individuals do not use it as a means to illegally enter the U.S.

RCMP officers waiting on the Canadian side of the park may instruct returning Canadians to report to the Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) – who can then choose to subject them to a 14-day quarantine.

But Kageorge said he's witnessed Mounties near the park for a couple of hours each day, not during all hours he's seen "a steady flow of people."

“Someone has to take the authority,” he said, whether it be the RCMP, City of Surrey bylaw officers, or the CBSA.

“As an American living in Canada I can assure you, Americans would never put up with this.”