US ‘national security’ concerns are adversely affecting Canadian-American relations

The powers the US has on Canadian soil to ‘protect’ national security’ should make us think twice about going there.

At the risk of being the nostalgic old fart in the room I am going to tell a story. When I was young, growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, my father and I would regularly drive to Detroit from our home in London to watch baseball. As this was well before the Toronto Blue Jays were established, and far closer than trekking to Montreal to see the Expos, the Tigers were the closest thing we had to a ‘home team’.

The trip took two hours one-way at most and we would arrive on the US side of the international border. The customs agent would ask us the purpose of our visit, maybe ask to see my dad’s driver’s licence, and tell us he hoped the Tigers win. No passport, no strip search, no third degree.

Sounds like a fantasy, doesn’t it? But that is how it was, or at least that is how my 12-year old mind remembers it.

The famous Haskell library that straddles the Canada-US border in Quebec/Vermont (Photo: Canadian Press)
My how things have changed!

In the wake of 9/11 the imaginary line we liked to brag about as the ‘world’s longest undefended border’ is now anything but. The US has sought, and received, approval for the establishment of ‘pre-clearance’ zones managed by American officials on Canadian soil (usually at airports). In these areas US law, not Canadian law, applies.

According to an op-ed I read this morning on the CBC Web site, US officials can now carry sidearms in these zones, conduct strip searches, record and keep passenger information, and detain Canadian citizens. Furthermore, if the interrogation proves too much to a wannabe visitor who then changes their minds about traveling, US border guards have the authority to deny Canadians their right to change their minds.

The US has received, approval for the establishment of ‘pre-clearance’ zones managed by American officials on Canadian soil. US officials can now carry sidearms in these zones, conduct strip searches, record and keep passenger information, and detain Canadian citizens

This authority is backed up by ‘reasonable grounds’. One of those grounds? The request to cancel one’s trip. What sovereign nation gives another these powers on its soil? Canada of course.

Immigrants in cages at the Mexico-US border (Photo: CNBC)
Look, I get that things have changed since 9/11

I understand that the breeze-through customs days are over. I accept that the US can make any rules it wants to govern who gets to enter its country and who doesn’t.

And yet in light of a litany of US abuses, all in the name of ‘national security’ – Gitmo, locking up children in cages at the Mexican border, US President Trump’s demand to ban Muslim immigration – who in their right senses would WANT to go to the US these days? Why subject yourself to this treatment? I know that many Canadians go to Florida to escape winter (my family did on many occasions) but there have to be better alternatives.

I for one refuse to go to the US for any reason these days. I will not subject myself to the sneers of US border officials. In that I am fortunate as I have no need to do so.

US border officials are down right rude. I have obtained an Nexus card, a privilege that is supposed to facilitate entry as I have already been ‘pre-cleared’, but on the one and only time I have used it to go to New York I was hassled by a surly guard and sent to secondary examination. Canadian border officials are angelic by comparison.

Image result for nexus card
Canada has tied its economic interest to the US for decades

Our trade relationship is such that we must try to maintain good bilateral relations. This is of course next to impossible as long as the Trump disaster continues but we still must try. But do we have to kowtow to every US request that has the weakest link to national security? That there are credible reports of endemic racism among US Customs and Border Patrol, all in keeping with Trump’s personal ethos, makes matters worse, especially for ‘ethnic’ Canadians.

At a minimum Canada should push back against this violation of our sovereignty. Is this to much to ask, the showing of a little spine?

I for one refuse to go to the US for any reason these days. I will not subject myself to the sneers of US border officials. In that I am fortunate as I have no need to do so. Many other Canadians have no choice in this matter.

At a minimum Canada should push back against this violation of our sovereignty. Yes, promote good cross border ties but no, don’t give our American friends the right to abuse our rights.

Is this to much to ask, the showing of a little spine?


An End to the War on Terrorism (2018)

This book will discuss what we have collectively done well, what we have done poorly, what we have yet to try and how we get to the point where terrorism does not dominate public discourse and cause disproportionate fear around the world.

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