Loosened border rules come into effect, allowing family reunification
VANCOUVER -- A slow trickle of cars with Washington State license plates could be seen heading north through one open lane at the Peace Arch Border crossing in South Surrey Tuesday morning, hours after new rules were introduced allowing some foreign nationals to visit family in Canada.
The rules took effect at midnight, less than 24 hours after being announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
But the rules for those heading north come with some big stipulations, including a mandatory two week quarantine period upon arriving in Canada.
The new rules apply to immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents. According to the Canada Border Services Agency that includes spouses or common-law partners, children and step-children, parents and step-parents, and guardians or tutors.
According to the CBSA, the Canadian family member will also need to confirm their loved one has a suitable place to stay for the 14 day quarantine period. The arrangements are expected to be made before the visitor enters Canada.
Anyone who is sick or has symptoms of COVID-19 will be barred from entry.
Blaine-based immigration lawyer Len Saunders says the two week mandatory quarantine period will still keep many people apart.
“It will help mostly retirees, people who aren’t working typical jobs or have commitments in the U.S.,” he told CTV News on Monday.
CTV News spoke with one of Saunders’ clients Tuesday, a Washington woman preparing to see her husband in Metro Vancouver over the next few days.
She says she was surprised and relieved by the rule change, but wondered if she would be encounter issues at the border if she needed to re-enter the United States for emergency family reasons before her two week quarantine period was over.
But, she said after weeks of visiting her new husband from across 0 Avenue, with herself on the U.S. side, and her husband on the Canadian side, she was relieved at the thought of finally reuniting.
For other families, the wait will need to continue.
Birgit Heinbach and her husband Ian Geddes, live just seven kilometres apart, with her in Surrey, and him in Blaine.
But as Geddes prepares to return to work as a pilot, he can’t commit to crossing north to see his wife because of the mandatory quarantine period.
“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.”
The exemption announced Monday is the first loosening of the rules at the border since the closure between the two countries took effect in mid-March.
Entry to the United States remains for essential trips only.
With Files from CTV’s Shannon Paterson