It has been a long time since Americans and Canadians have had the same ease of transit across our mutual border that Europeans routinely enjoy when crossing borders between their countries. The American-Canadian border used to be the longest unprotected border in the world and today too many people, on both sides of the border, want to see it more restrictive. One of those people is Senator Colin Kenny, chair of the Senate committee on national security and defence. Writing for the Toronto Star today, Kenny applauds U.S. homeland security tsar Janet Napolitano’s efforts to further stifle the ease of crossing that border.
Colin and I go back many years in Canadian politics. When retiring Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau graciously appointed him to the Senate, the appointment had nothing to do with Colin’s stimulating intellect. It had much more to do with a ‘thank you’ for Colin’s many years in a tough, rather thankless organizational role in the Prime Minister’s office. Those of us who volunteered to work off and on with Colin at political functions for the Prime Minister came to refer to him as “the white rabbit.” This was not derogatory. It was said with a smile because he so often came late to meetings with words that sounded like: “Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!” and we local functionaries, like Lewis Carroll’s Alice, were expected to follow him down whatever rabbit hole to which he chose to lead us.
He is certainly not taking me down this rabbit hole. I’ll fight on this issue. Colin says in the Star story that Napolitano’s idea of sending 700 new agents to guard our mutual border is great. He thinks we should have more border guards to help the Americans out. So far all those new rules and increased surveillance have done is hurt trade between our countries and reduce the buying traffic at border discount outlets.
Colin thinks that increasing our border vigilance will impress Washington. He should know by now that nothing impresses Washington people but their own egos. He also thinks our border approach is too relaxed and that this attitude allows the Americans to delay Canadian products going south. He believes our participation with the Americans on Inter-Border Enforcement Teams (IBETs) is a ‘terrific idea.’ Even worse, he applauds the arming of more of our customs personnel.
What Colin fails to understand or explain in his article is how any of this foolishness is going to help bring more American tourists to Canada or expedite shipments of Canadian goods to the American market. Those are two issues that are not on the radar of Homeland Secretary Napolitano and are most important to our Canadian economy.
Colin should enjoy his retirement to the Canadian Senate and stop being an apologist for xenophobic Americans.
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