Monday, November 7, 2011


Like most of my generation, I mourn our collective loss of innocence in the decade since the attacks on New York, Washington and Shankville, Pennsyslvania.  I was born and raised along the border, and I've witness far too frequently just how much the security measures, now common place in the post 9/11 world, complicate and divide lives, friends, commercial enterprises, business relationships and even families.

Within weeks of the September 2001 events, the United-States launched a massive security build-up which is still growing pretty much unabated along our shared border where for centuries people had crossed back and forth to shop, work or visit relatives with only a nod from a friendly Customs Officer.
Windsor - Detroit's Ambassador Bridge
Canadians acknowledge and accept the need for enhanced security in the United-States and that "our" lives will never be quite the way they were. But the disruptions and changes remain a source of frequent frustrations on both sides for residents of the cities, towns, villages and communities which dot our shared 8891 kilometer / 5557 miles  border; the longest (once friendliest) on the planet. There are nightmarish stories recounted by emergency responders (fire and ambulance) on mutual-aid calls held-up by overzealous border agents. Small towns struggling with soured economic conditions: Has anyone been to Van Buren, Caribou or Madawaska, Maine recently? Towns like Ogdensburg, Messina and Watertown, New York reduced to advertising their "economic opportunities" in far off large Canadian city newspapers.

Mindful of our long standing and mutually beneficial economic trading relationships with the United-States; successive Canadian governments, provincial and state authorities, and business, manufacturing and trade organizations (often from both sides)  have sought to ease cross-border passage if not frequent tensions. Mired by paranoid patriotic fervor the Bush Administration, First - (and) - Overwhelmed by economic and political turmoil the Obama Administration, Second - have neither expressed nor entertained any genuine interest in effecting change.  Most recently plans for a new crossing over the Detroit River suffered a crippling setback in the Michigan State Senate, the American federal government re-introduced a $5.50 per person levy on Canadians entering the USA, and President Obama's multi-billion dollar pre-election jobs creation scheme hinges on  "Buy America" provisions. The much touted, ballyhooed and delayed "Perimeter Security Framework" has turned into an irritant for Canadians, and an embarrassment for the Harper government.

Whether it's a matter of how Canada gets routinely sideswiped when the U.S. is really targeting someone else (that has been suggested by some observers) or bad manners and discrimination; the cacophony from our noble friend and ally down south has grown somewhat tedious, irksome and alas, wearisome!

The message may be starting to get through: Since North Americans and the world were turned upside down by terrorism a decade ago, instead of working together as neighbours on common strategies to reduce internal problems and re-build damaged economies we hop from crisis to crisis and Band-Aid solutions. Perhaps out of frustration but always with the political correctness required of his office, Canada's Minister of Finance, Jim Flaherty, said recently that U.S. politics can sometimes be "dysfunctional." - Someone else remarked: "Once the presidential race fully takes off in January, "dysfunctional" may look like a compliment.

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