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'I cannot do that and keep my job': New border exemption has a big catch
VANCOUVER -- She’s a physiotherapist from south Surrey. He’s a pilot who lives seven kilometres away in Blaine, Washington. They got married last year, and were splitting their time between their two homes until the Canada-U.S. border closed in March. Now Birgit Heinbach and Ian Geddes are living on opposite sides of the divide.
“I’ve been completely isolated and alone,” said Geddes. “I know my wife is 10 minutes away, but I’ve been unable to see her, so its been pretty tough.”
The couple had been together for 11 years when they tied the knot in November. “We finally managed to get married and all of a sudden we are totally apart again, and not at our will, it’s in somebody else’s hands,” said Heinbach.
On Monday, the Prime Minister announced a relaxing of the border rules for Americans with close relatives in Canada. They can visit their spouses, children, parents or other close family members, but they need to quarantine for 14 days when they arrive.
“I cannot do that and keep my job,” said Geddes. He’s a pilot with Allegiant Air based in Bellingham, and is on now call for the airline’s return to the skies.
“I can’t afford to leave my job to see my wife for two weeks, “ said Geddes. “If I had to quarantine every time I came up it would just not work, and I’m sure there are quite a few people in the same situation.”
Blaine Immigration lawyer Len Saunders says the exemption for Americans visiting their close relatives in Canada is a good first step, but many of his clients won’t be able to take advantage because of the quarantine.
“I think it’s going to help mostly retirees, people who aren’t working typical jobs, or have commitments in the U.S.,” said Saunders. “So I gave to give Trudeau for doing this, I just think they have to relax that quarantine a little bit.”
He believes the U.S. border could remain closed to non-essential travel into the fall. “It seems like the Canadian government is in no rush to have American citizens coming to Canada,” he said.
Unless the quarantine requirement is lifted, Heinbach and Geddes will only be able to visit in Peace Arch park. “Since the park opened we’ve met two or three times in the park and had coffee and cake and had dinner together,” Heinbach said. “It’s been nice to be able to hug each other and to be in each other arms.”
But after their visit, the newlyweds are forced to return to homes on opposite sides of the border. Heinbach reminding herself each time “We promised each other to be with each other, and to go through the troubled times.”