‘Friendliest’ border in focus
Last Saturday, a meeting was held at the United Universalist Church, in Derby Line, to discuss a project aimed at making the Canadian/American border easier to cross. Among the roughly fifteen people who attended were Stanstead mayor Philippe Dutil, local Liberal candidate William Hogg, and a representative of the Newport Development Agency. United States National Congressman, Peter Welch, although he couldn’t attend because he was in Washington, asked to be kept informed if there were any practical ways he could be helpful regarding the project, called the CANUSA Project. The meeting was not attended by any border security officials.
“We all talked about various problems we had crossing the border, mainly at the American border checkpoints but sometimes at the Canadian checkpoint, too, and the length of time it takes,” commented Stanstead East resident George Weller who organized the meeting along with Bradford, Vermont resident Paul Hunt. “I moved here in 1970 when there was lots of back and forth across the border. And I’ve seen the border get tighter and tighter. I’m a dual citizen with two passports and a passport card with a microchip. But when I cross into the United States they ask where I’m going and what I’m doing in an officious manner. I don’t let it bother me but some people get upset with that. They just need to know if I am allowed to enter the United States and if I’m bringing anything with me,” he added.
The new procedures at the American border have not only decreased the number of times people now cross the border to visit friends or relatives, or shop for those great American deals, they have also affected business. According to Mr. Weller, some local businesses have been discouraged by the lengthy time and energy it takes to “negotiate border rules”, such as Express Electric Magog which no longer services the Ethan Allen furniture factory in Orleans, Vermont.
The next step of the project will be to contact government and business organizations who might support the effort. “This is a national project and we hope to reach representatives and business people along the entire Canada/US border. It is critical to get political will and to educate people in the hinterlands on both sides of the border that the new border regulations are a problem and that business is being affected,” said Mr. Weller. A bigger web presence for the project is in the works. The site would promote the project’s aims and highlight checkpoint abuses. Future meetings have also been planned. “Mr. Hogg said he would get someone from Ottawa to come to the next meeting,” mentioned the organizer.
“The goal of the CANUSA Project is to permit citizens and people legally entered into Canada and the United States to cross the border freely like in the European Common Market countries. There is no definite time limit for the project. The aim is to help this effort in a positive way. When it works, it works.”