Jody Clark and her husband Aaron Moser have had visits along Zero Avenue under the watchful eye of border patrol officers. (Submitted)

Cross-border newlyweds separated by COVID-19 pandemic

Peace Arch Park closure has couple wondering when they’ll hold each other again

Jody Clark and Aaron Moser sit and tell stories like any newlyweds would.

There’s the one about how they met five years ago, then the courtship and the proposal. But unlike most couples, they are sitting on different couches, in different rooms, even in different countries.

Clark is in her living room in New Westminster, while Moser is in Everett, Wash. So, they chat via a Google Meetup, distanced by the 150 km between them. They are unsure when they’ll see each other again.

The two were married just as the novel coronavirus was becoming an international issue, on Feb. 7. There were only four cases in B.C., and Canadians in affected countries were advised to come home. Trips overseas were still forging ahead, and borders were open.

Both are avid scuba divers, in fact that’s how they met five years ago, and they were married at Whytecliffe Park in Vancouver in their dry suits. They had met through diving, and it’s one of their favourite pastimes on both sides of the border.

Shortly after the wedding, the couple got their immigration paperwork in order. The plan was for Moser to move to B.C., and continue working for his employer as an equipment repair technician for water pump systems. Oftentimes, his work takes him even closer to the border than Everett, and even right into B.C.

READ MORE: Influx of cross-border visitors to Peace Arch Park sparks concern COVID-19 could spike

Clark also has a good job, in a law firm that has remained open throughout the pandemic. For them to visit at this point, it would require a 14-day quarantine on both sides of the border for either of them, which would involve one month off work.

“The next time we know we will see each other is Christmas,” Clark says.

The last time they saw each other was the day the Peach Arch Park closed, June 18. The park had served as a loophole for people with families on both sides of the border. It’s an international park, on 17 hectares situated between the two ports of entry. As long as visitors stay within its boundaries, they can move freely between the two countries.

However, there had been a massive influx of visitors to the park over the Memorial Day weekend, and complaints and concerns over COVID-19 transmission between visitors prompted the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy to close the Canadian side of the park.

So now, like all the other families that are separated by the border, they will meet up along Zero Avenue. They had met there a few times, where they could park their vehicles close to each other and have distanced visits under the watchful eye of border guards.

“They sit in your car and watch your dates,” Moser says.

They’ve used technology to keep the family connection, too. They often have family Netflix dates, where Clark and her 10-year-old daughter will watch a movie at home, and Moser watches at his home. Using Skip the Dishes, Moser orders similar meals for the whole family, too.

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

Clark didn’t want to do too many in-person visits at first at the border, as she found it harder to say good-bye. But at the beginning, it was hard to predict how long this would drag out.

They’re hoping to hear from Immigration what the next steps will be for Moser’s visa to come to Canada. But with all applications stopped after Feb. 28, they missed that deadline by about three days. They don’t know if they need an extension, or to apply again. They’ve had no information given to them to date.

While both are hoping to see the borders open, they also know it would happen faster if more people followed the distancing rules in place.

“It’s hard for people like me, following the rules,” Moser says. “I think for us in this situation, we just have to take it a day at a time. It’s very easy to get discouraged and it’s terrible, it’s depressing. There are days it just feels like you don’t want to deal with it.”

But they will do what they can to meet up, online and at the border, until the day they can finally move forward as a family.

They’re also finding that this experience is showing them they aren’t alone. The day the Peace Arch Park was closed, for example, they saw at least four couples rushing to get married on site.

“There were people rushing everywhere, it was very last minute,” Clark says. “They only told us that morning it would be closing.”


@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

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Jody Clark and Aaron Moser met on a scuba diving trip at Hornby Island. (Submitted)

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