Slow to catch up on this story, as I have been, this is another extreme, and urgent, example of what can happen to any travelers whose plane, for whatever unplanned reason, enters U.S. air space or needs to land there.
Please follow the links to register your concern with Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay who, for a change, was not on CTV’s Question Period today standing on the main street of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia.
Of course, the false Greek passports will be used to indict this family, in the court of talk radio anyway, but it would not hurt Peter MacKay to remind forgetful U.S. authorities of how Canadian airports opened themselves up wide to potential missiles-as-America-bound-airliners on September 11, 2001. Just a small I.O.U. to keep cashing in…
As I said this case is an extreme example, Maher Arar being another, of what can happen when flying to or from Canada. My sister remembers well a vacation in Cuba and one of the flights, either to or from (I can’t remember which), had to land in the southern U.S.A. due to a minor mechanical difficulty. The Canadian vacationers were treated like Cold War enemies, and this was just a couple of years ago, by discourteous, sarcastic INS agents when they were escorted from their plane and corralled into a holding area of the airport.
Just wanted to add that little anecdote to make sure, if this didn’t do it, that I’m on the Bushland Security watch list.
Due to a stream of consciousness too long to describe I was reminded of an on-going beef I have had with the American policy on visits, not just immigration, by persons with HIV.
I was pleased, however, to find that I am not just a lone voice crying – or smiling, as is the case in the picture – in the Canadian wilderness (Toronto’s waterfront); that there are activists, in the United States, working on this. Read about Ken’s (not Kenn’s) experience here.
There are far greater concerns, surely, for border security agents to worry about than whether the inside pocket of a back-pack holds the anti-retroviral medications someone needs to keep AIDS-related illnesses at bay while visiting. I kid you not . When I crossed into the States in May, 2001 (pre-9/11, sure) it was all I could do to control my ‘bio movements’ when a border guard opened my suitcase, and then my backpack, but didn’t look in its side pocket which held enough pills for what would turn out to be an unforgettable, five day Memorial Day week – yes that is also “Fleet Week” – visit to the Big Apple.
One would think that American cities would be lining up to host AIDS conferences such as we held in Toronto this past August.
America, please remove this stigmatizing travel restriction or, to turn a phrase of Reagan’s, “tear down this wall!”
I suppose this confession automatically puts me on a ‘watch list’.
I am already restricted from entering the United States because not only does the Immigration and Naturalization Service have the authority to ban me from even visiting, due to my HIV status, the very fact that I know about this puts me at higher risk of being prosecuted. This measure, enacted during the Reagan years, came into play rather publicly post-9/11 when a Canadian man was refused entry to attend the funeral of his partner, killed in the WTC attacks, because his HIV medications were found in his luggage.
It is also why the International AIDS Society has consistently refused to hold its huge conferences on U.S. soil, whereas Canada is among several countires that has played host – to two so far (in Montreal and Vancouver) – and the next will be in Toronto this August.
This all comes to mind as our new, hopefully quite temporary, Prime Minister Stephen Harper did not get President Bush to budge on the matter of requiring passports of anyone travelling to or from the United States. This may seem like a no-brainer but Canada-U.S. visitors have never had to provide more than a birth certificate and this passport requirement is seen as a bad omen for tourism on both sides of the border.