Government Relations Report Issue 45

Winter 2002 CSANews Issue 45  |  Posted date : Apr 12, 2007.Back to list

After two-and-a-half years of research and hard work, the CSA Travellers' Report Card was released to various levels of government and the media on October 22, 2002. Ellen White, as President, was the lead spokesperson and participated in many interviews with media outlets across Canada. The release was timed so that the CSA's arguments would be placed front and centre before the public and the media, before the November release of Mr. Romanow's findings. This simple strategy gave the CSA a key advantage ­ when the Romanow Commission reports back to the government, our research will be in-hand and we will be ready for discussion with the provinces in what will likely be a very fiery post-Romanow debate. The Report Card is available on the CSA Web site (www.snowbirds.org) and for those of you wanting a paper copy, they will be available at the Extravaganzas and Winter Information Meetings.

I would like to commend the law firm of Blake, Cassels and Graydon and the public relations firm of Navigator Ltd. on a job very well done. It is a project of which we can all be very proud.

Our new Border Assist Program nightline was initiated on November 4, 2002 and staff have already aided a number of members by clarifying issues for them when they experienced problems crossing the border. To prepare for this program,
the CSA staff, CSA president and key members of Medipac International attended a meeting led by CSA legal counsel, Wallace Weylie. We were honoured to have with us John Morrow, Department of Foreign Affairs' Deputy Director of the United States Transboundary Division, and John Smarsh, Port Director of Pearson International Airport for the INS. The speakers complimented the CSA on having the foresight to initiate a program that reaches out to its members, informing them and offering advice and assistance with the new border-crossing protocols. All presenters focused on a key issue that we must continually impress upon our membership ­ when crossing the border, one must be honest with the border officials regarding all facts. Direct, honest answers to direct questions are required and expected. We were reminded that our members, who are entering other countries, are in fact guests and to enter another country is a privilege rather than a right.

When Ms. Leslie Ann Gerson, Counselor for Consular Affairs, United States Embassy, Ottawa met with our President, she was very receptive to our ideas and commented positively on the format which CSA staff uses when a member reports a border incident. CSA has initiated a protocol whereby we can share information/complaints with her office (names of complainants do not need to be attached). This way, her office will be able to monitor, and act on complaints regarding a specific border site.

If you experience a problem at the border or have a question regarding crossing into the U.S., call 1-800-265-3200 and have your CSA membership number ready for our Call Service Representative. If possible, make sure that you record the time at which the incident occurred and the border official's number or name. This member-only service is available from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Ms. Gerson related that Congress, under the USA PATRIOT Act, has developed an entry-exit system designed to provide greater protection for the United States. The National Security Entry Exit Registration System (NSEERS) was launched on September 11, 2002 and it is the first step towards development of a comprehensive entry-exit system applicable to all foreign visitors. The program originally called for all nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Syria to be fingerprinted and photographed when attending at a border-crossing entrance to the United States. It did not matter if they were Canadian citizens, holding Canadian passports ­ if identified as being from a NSEERS country, they would have been subject to scrutiny under the act. In her meetings with Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) representatives in early October, Ellen White discussed concerns regarding this sweeping border change by which the INS could fingerprint and photograph Canadians. DFAIT actively advocated against this program as it infringed on the rights of Canadian citizens. They were also very concerned that this list of countries would grow ­ since September 11, the list has grown to include Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

In late October, the CSA spoke out against this treatment of Canadian citizens during many media interviews. We were concerned that law-abiding citizens, many of whom have lived in and supported Canada, would have been treated unjustly. On October 31, it appears that the U.S. moderated their position, telling our federal Minister of Foreign Affairs Bill Graham that no Canadian citizen would be affected by this new provision. However, any Canadian identified as having recently visited a NSEERS country would still be subject to the protocols.

We will continue to monitor all travel issues that affect Canadian travellers, and take action when necessary. I would like to take this opportunity to extend my best wishes to you all for a safe, happy and healthy holiday season.