6.09.2009

the sad, unfriendly border

I neglected to mark a quietly momentous occasion. At long last, after years of delays and attempts to reconfigure them, the new travel restrictions between Canada and the US have gone into effect.

Beginning last Monday, June 1, people crossing the world's longest border now need either a passport or one of a few other approved documents.

I think this is sad, and completely useless. It obviously won't make us any safer, as there's no real danger in the first place. Despite persistent lies told by US officials, none of the September 11th hijackers entered the US through Canada. As usual, it all boils down to suspicion, innuendo and fear-mongering.

On the US side, that country may face the risk of terrorism within its own borders - Oklahoma City, anti-choice zealots, death threats against the new president - or from the hatred it sows by oppressing people all over the world. But Canada is not the problem.

On the Canadian side, this country faces the ongoing danger of its culture and identity being swallowed up by the US, but no border ID check has ever stopped that or ever will.

* * * *

For people who own passports, the new rules are not a big deal. But millions of Canadians and Americans don't have passports, and they're unlikely to spend time and money getting one for a brief trip over the border.

People who live in certain border provinces and states can apply for enhanced driver's licences or enhanced ID cards, an amendment hard-won by citizens who reasonably fear these useless rules will diminish their economies. But even that restriction may be onerous. It remains to be seen how many people will apply for those documents.

When Allan and I first met, he still lived in his hometown of Burlington, Vermont. Sometimes we'd rent a car and drive up to Montreal for the day. One summer, traveling around New York State, we popped up to Montreal for what turned out to be one of the most memorable baseball games of our lives.

Longer ago, when I was growing up, my family went to Canada several times. On a vacation to Acadia National Park in Maine, we also visited the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick. Several trips to New England and western New York State included stops into Canada. Growing up in New York, Canada was something both friendly and familiar, and different and a bit exotic. It was cool that we visit another country in just a short drive.

It seems very sad to have lost that. For so many people who depend on border traffic for their livelihoods, it's more than sad. And it's all so completely stupid.

25 comments:

Stephanie said...

I was born in Sarnia ON and making a border crossing once per week was not unusual...my childhood is likewise filled with these memories.

It's really sad to see an end to the era of friendly cooperation traded for the false security of enhanced security measures.

:(

L-girl said...

"It's really sad to see an end to the era of friendly cooperation traded for the false security of enhanced security measures."

You said that much more clearly and succinctly than I was able to. Thanks!

MSEH said...

So you *have* been to New Brunswick! ;-)

Cid said...

I spent many summers in the 1000 Islands between NY and Ontario. We would just hop in the boat and go over to Alexandria Bay to get lunch or later hang out in the bars. You would just have to call in from a certain place to say you had arrived or returned, they rarely came to check. There is no way these new regluations will stop anyone from crossing the border who shouldn't but it will be a real hassle for those of us who consider our neighbours to the south neighbours in the true sense of the word.

L-girl said...

"So you *have* been to New Brunswick! ;-)"

I have! And I didn't realize it until I wrote this post. I thought had only been to Ontario and Quebec, and last summer, Newfoundland. But I guess I can "colour in" NB, too. :)

"There is no way these new regluations will stop anyone from crossing the border who shouldn't but it will be a real hassle for those of us who consider our neighbours to the south neighbours in the true sense of the word."

That's it exactly. Anyone who wants to find a way into either country is going to. Meanwhile, those of us who freely go back and forth are now a little less free to.

Cornelia said...

Yep, it's so unnecessary, so unwarranted, so stupid and so sad and regrettable...

JakeNCC said...

There is a real security risk from the border but it's not from the Canadian side. It's the unconscieneable amount of guns that are being smuggled into Canada FROM the states.

This may not be the most popular opinion but I support the passport rules in that maybe it will be a wakeup call to many Canadians that we are a sovereign people and it's time the United States treated us as such.

L-girl said...

I agree that the risk is on the Canadian side. But the new passport rules aren't going to change smuggling. Smugglers, by definition, don't follow rules.

Do you really think these new border rules will provide "a wakeup call"? Or is that just wishful thinking?

redsock said...

Guardian UK:
The US is a virtual supermarket for terrorists and foreign governments seeking high-end military technology, including components that can be used to build nuclear weapons and equip militants fighting US and British troops, the American government has found.
Over the past year, government investigators posing as private buyers purchased military-grade body armour, technology to stabilise and steer guided missiles, a device that can be used to detonate nuclear weapons, and other munitions through legal means in the US. They evaded export controls and posted dummy versions of the gear to countries known as trans-shipment points for terrorist groups and foreign governments seeking arms and weapons components.

***

Well, no fuckin' shit!

But don't worry. There will be a minimum-wage security guard shining a flashlight into your work bag for 2 seconds before you head up to your office. All for your protection.

Anything and everything the US does in terms of "security" is a total bullshit worthless sham.

JakeNCC said...

I'm always hopeful we will decouple from the states. Perhaps this will help in the long run. Although I'll probably be the first to complain when I have to wait to cross into Buffalo the next time I head that way.

loribeth said...

I was born in the border town of Emerson, Manitoba. One set of grandparents lived on a farm just outside of town, & the other lived 20 miles south in a small town in Minnesota. I have crossed the border hundreds, maybe thousands of times in my life. Until the last 10 years or so, it was no big deal (the customs agents were often people who knew my parents or grandparents -- one guy was even a distant cousin). I can't believe I now need a passport to drive 20 miles across the border to visit my grandparents' graves in the cemetery. :(

Stephanie said...

There it is...the crux of it all in Loribeth's history!

It is really so sad especially when looked at in the light of Allan's post from the Guardian.

:C

(that is supposed to be my REALLY sad face...)

John F said...

This is completely off-topic, but:

Nova Scotia just elected an NDP majority government! W00T!

Stephanie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
L-girl said...

Fuckin A!! WOW!

John F said...

MY riding kept the same old Tory, of course. You can't have everything.

Stephanie said...

sorry I said PEI but I *meant* NS...shame on me!

John F said...

One interesting tidbit from the election: 12 of the 52 seats in the legislature were won by women. This sets a new record for female MLAs in Nova Scotia. Nine of the twelve are NDP.

L-girl said...

Stephanie, I was wondering when you would notice that! :)

John F, thanks for coming by with the news. I was watching a baseball game, and wouldn't have known until morning!

PS: Red Sox shut out the Yankees 7-0. We are now 6-0 against them this season! So it's been a winning night all around.

Ish said...

Great post. I've been thinking about this a lot lately and it's made me a bit sad to know I'll need to pony up a hundred bucks just to be able to pop across the border when I'm visiting my grandmother in northern Maine. Trips "to Canada" were some of my fondest as a kid and as an adult.

I have a couple of friends who work for the border patrol and in years past it was fun to see them when we were crossing back into Maine from NB. It wasn't an interrogation, it was a, "Hey! Great to see you guys!" A quick chat and a smile as you move on.

I do give a lot of credit to the officials along the Maine/NB border who are still very friendly even in these times. They know when to be tough.

The hassle is getting the passport. Paying the $100 USD and waiting for it, etc. That one-time hundred bucks can be very annoying to some and unattainable to others.

I guess one way to look it at is by a little bit of math. It's $10 a year, which is pennies for those who live in border towns and cross frequently, and $5 for each crossing if you're only doing it once a year. So you wonder is it worth ten bucks to go to Canada once a year? It is to me, without a doubt.

That logic does not dismiss how sad and seemingly unnecessary the new measures are. Like was discussed here, requiring passports will not solve the current border issues whether they are local or more broad. There are ways around it and those that wish to find ways will find them.

Cornelia said...

Yep, it's expensive and complicated and unpleasant. Over here, there were much controls also before the EU. Still, a passport costs 59 or 60 Euros (if people don't have so much money, they'd better get it when it fits them in financially, as I do) and lasts for 10 years. Cool that you will get it and come to Canada nonetheless and that the officers at the border are nice at your place, Ish!

L-girl said...

Thanks for the great comment, Ish. Always nice to see you here!

L-girl said...

By the way, I think the cost-over-time is a very good way to look at getting a passport, on a personal level. Plus, then you'll have a passport - good for going anywhere! Which I know you want to do.

M. Yass said...

To me, this pretty much demolishes the conspiracy theories about a so-called "North American Union." Far from going the way of the EU, the border between the US and Canada is getting thicker, not thinner.

L-girl said...

M Yass, I tend to agree.

Of course people say the border regulations are a smokescreen, a sleight of hand to keep us looking in the wrong direction.

But that seems like changing the goal posts to me.