Aldergrove resident Georgene VanDelft met her U.S. relatives along the border at 0 Ave throughout the summer. (Dan Ferguson/Black Press Media)

‘There’s been no silver lining in border closures’

Aldergrove resident Georgene VanDelft recounts summer of separation and COVID frustrations

The federal government is rumoured to be extending the Canada-U.S. border closure until Oct. 21 – bringing the unprecedented shutdown to a length of seven months and counting.

Throughout that time, families have been using makeshift meeting places such as Peace Arch Park or the Lower Mainland road that runs along the border to work around the COVID-19 closure.

People have frequently gathered where 0 Avenue runs alongside East Boundary Road on the U.S side, with only a narrow trench separating the two routes.

Aldergrove resident Georgene VanDelft spoke to the Aldergrove Star back in June, recounting how she, her husband, and her three children meet with her parents and siblings that live within walking distance from the border in Lynden.

“It’s still pretty terrible,” VanDelft assured three months later. “I think people’s attitudes about have gotten worse. It’s wearing everybody down.”

While 0 Ave had provided an outlet for visiting, a newly erected fence and busy traffic have posed obstacles for people who frequent what’s been referred to as “the ditch.”

“We don’t meet a lot there on the road anymore,” VanDelft explained. “We’ve been going to Sumas or Peace Arch instead because it’s off the road and a lot safer. I didn’t like going there with the kids.”

VanDelft and her family had previously come with lawn chairs in hand – sometimes meeting as often as three times each week.

The Canadian side of Peace Arch Park closed in mid-June to discourage visitors and help slow the spread of COVID-19, but VanDelft said the American side is still open.

“More and more people are coming to the U.S. side, so it’s getting busier because everyone is funneled to a smaller section,” she said.

VanDelft has written letters and made phone calls to the public health officials to plead her family’s case in being able to see each other – an action she knows she’s not alone in doing.

READ MORE: Families separated by B.C. border restrictions are again meeting ‘in the ditch’ on roads

Though the response has been sympathetic, ultimately, VanDelft said the message is that there’s nothing that can be done.

“It’s just our new reality,” she added. “It’s going to be this way till next year, and I think we’re just starting to accept that.”

In that “new normal,” VanDelft said her brother Derrick and soon-to-be-sister-in-law Mekalya decided to get married and have a wedding along the border.

“She is Canadian and he is dual, so he decided to come up here and quarantine, and they just decided to get married and start that process so they can be together,” VanDelft explained.

Though no date has been set, she said it’s likely to be in Peace Arch Park and not 0 Ave.

“We don’t know logistics quite yet. He just built a home and a new shop, so they’re set for life when he’s able to go back down there,” VanDelft said about her brother,” “but right now they’re living in tiny basement suite.”

VanDelft thinks the ceremony might happen October, but noted that the weather is swiftly turning colder – something that is sure to dampen the limited contact her family has.

The Canada-U.S. border remains closed to all but essential travel, something that has tempted VanDelft, who could drive across and quarantine with her family in Lyndon.

“We were supposed to go camping in the states, but our eight-year-old even pointed out that it wasn’t worth two weeks of quarantining for one week of playing and having fun,” she said.

Ultimately, she said it’s a waiting game for all loved ones separated by the invisible line – one that is likely to get tougher with shorter daylight hours, colder weather, and perhaps further restrictions.

“You get why they are making the rules, but you still want to see family,” she said. “There’s nothing like going to your mom’s house.”

While the unusual novelty of a border-side wedding was not lost on VanDelft, she still hopes life will get back to normal and trips to Lyndon will take the usual 20 minutes she was previously accustomed to.

Smaller groups still infrequently meet between Boundary Road and 0 Avenue, and will likely continue to gather until borders are reopened.

Langley RCMP can occasionally be seen on the Canadian side, while U.S. Customs and Border Protection vehicles monitor the American area.

“There’s been no silver lining in border closures so far,” she added.

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Is there more to this story?

Email: ryan.uytdewilligen@aldergrovestar.com

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