B.C. woman forced to quarantine after meeting husband at Peace Arch Park
SURREY, B.C. -- Birgit Heinbach went to see her American husband on her birthday at Peace Arch Park to retrieve their dog.
“We have 3 dogs and they all have the same veterinarian,” Heinbach explained. “So, she was there to get vaccinated against rabies.”
That vet is located in Blaine, where her husband lives, and the pair have been separated since the border restrictions first came into effect.
Heinbach told CTV News Vancouver an RCMP officer told them to claim the dog with CBSA at the north side of the park.
“I went to the CBSA office and did the right thing,” she said. “(I) said I was bringing my dog back into Canada and was promptly quarantined.”
That was Sept. 15.
Peace Arch Park is a shared space operated by both Canada and the U.S., and Canadians and Americans have long been allowed to mingle there without crossing an international border. The B.C. government closed the Canadian side of the park earlier this year – citing concerns about gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason – but the U.S. side remains open. Families continue to meet there on weekends.
That’s where Heinbach was: at the park getting her dog for just a few minutes before planning to return home. She just didn’t anticipate being told she’d have to quarantine when she got there.
“It was a meeting of five minutes and yet I’ve been quarantined – in my opinion and I think most people’s opinion – for no reason,” she said.
Her immigration attorney Len Saunders agrees.
“For them to determine that she is subject to this 14-day quarantine is ridiculous,” he told CTV News.
He said he regularly meets clients at the park.
“From what I see, absolutely nobody, when they walk north back into Canada from the American side of the Peace Arch Park, is quarantined.”
RCMP officers are now patrolling 0 Avenue, near entry points for Peace Arch Park. They are regularly checking identification for anyone returning north and looking at what returning Canadians are bringing with them.
Saunders said it’s good the RCMP is keeping track, but that there should be uniform treatment by both government agencies.
“If you can cross back into Canada with the RCMP and have no problems, why can’t you cross back at an actual port of entry and have a CBSA officer say the same thing? There has to be consistencies in situations like this,” he said.
CTV News reached out to CBSA and was told that the agency does not provide comment on specific travellers, but picking up a pet from the United States is considered optional travel, and thus subject to mandatory quarantine rules.
The agency did not provide a specific explanation of what should happen in situations in which RCMP refers Canadians who have been visiting Peace Arch Park to the customs office at the border crossing.
“Travellers entering Canada after spending time outside Canada, including those returning to Canada from the United States, are subject to the quarantine requirement unless they explicitly meet an exemption,” the agency said.
As for Heinbach, this isn’t the first time she’s been in quarantine. In August, she visited her husband, and despite a letter from her employer listing her as a frontline health-care worker, was asked to quarantine upon her return.
“I was called after 12 days by a government worker informing me I should have never been quarantined,” she said.
But now, she’s back in isolation, and despite a letter written to the CBSA, is worried she won’t have her quarantine rescinded. Between the two quarantines, Heinbach said she has lost about $4,000 in wages.
“I have 200 people I’m supposed to look after and I have looked after nobody,” she said. “I did not expect to be quarantined.”
Border restrictions have been in place since March and were recently extended until at least Oct. 21.