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

Penelope the cat showed up safe and sound at her owner’s porch after an unusual trip through the news cycle in recent weeks. (Photo courtesy of Reuniting Owners with Animals Missing)
Penelope, cat and friend of the Victoria HarbourCats, returns home safe

The cat had an after an unusual trip through the news cycle in recent weeks

Stanley Fischer (right) died while in a Victoria police jail cell hours after he was arrested on Nov. 15, 1981. Forty years later, his family is questioning his cause of death. (Photo courtesy of Mark Fischer)
Family wants investigation into man’s 1981 death while in Victoria police custody

Stanley Fischer’s death was ruled a suicide after he was found hanging in his jail cell

The Compost Education Centre is hosting its annual spring plant sale on May 8 at 1216 North Park St. Physical distancing protocols will be in effect during the sale, which runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Black Press Media file photo)
This weekend: Tenth annual spring plant sale hosted by Victoria Compost Education Centre

The non-profit event Saturday, May 8 will feature numerous varieties of plants, live music

Saanich police detectives are investigating a reported sexual assault that occurred near Glanford Park on the evening of Dec. 29, 2020 and have shared an artist’s rendering of the individual. (Image via Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers)
Saanich police release sketch of suspect sought in December sexual assault

Anyone with information asked to contact detectives, Crime Stoppers

Work is progressing on the new student housing building at the University of Victoria. The building will be home to 398 students when complete in September 2022. (Photo courtesy of UVic)
VIDEO: Mass timber installation begins at UVic student housing project

Green technology plays key role in building that will be home to 398 University of Victoria students

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start releasing neighbourhood-specific COVID numbers after data leak

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

Ladysmith RCMP safely escorted the black bear to the woods near Ladysmith Cemetary. (Town of Ladysmith/Facebook photo)
Black bear tranquillized, relocated after wandering around residential Ladysmith

A juvenile black bear was spotted near 2nd Avenue earlier Friday morning

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix update B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count creeps up, seven more deaths

445 people in hospital, 157 in intensive care

Summerland’s positive test rate is much higher than surrounding local health areas, according to internal BC CDC documents. (BC CDC)
Summerland 3rd behind Surrey, Abbotsford in daily per capita COVID-19 cases

Interior Health is rolling out additional vaccine availability to the community

Amazon is pausing its Prime Day marketing event in Canada this year amid ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks at its facilities in Ontario. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Amazon Prime Day halted in Canada due to COVID-19 outbreaks in warehouses

The event was postponed to protect the health and safety of employees and customers, the company says

At this Highway 3 check point, police officers will be asking for identification from drivers, documentation regarding the driver’s name and address, and the purpose for the driver’s travel. (RCMP)
No fines handed out at 1st COVID-19 roadblock as checks move across B.C.

Cpl. Chris Manseau says a total of 127 vehicles were stopped at a roadblock in the Manning Park area

A spectator looks on as the Olympic Caldron is relit in downtown Vancouver, Wednesday, February 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Small majority of B.C. residents in favour of a Vancouver 2030 Olympic bid: survey

A new survey shows a split over the possibility of public money being spent to organize and host the winter games

Most Read