Canadians travelling to or through U.S. should pay close attention to their withering rights

Posted In: News Date:Dec 15th, 2019

This column is an opinion by H.M. Jocelyn, a Ph.D. candidate in American Studies at Rutgers University-Newark. A dual Canadian-American citizen, she was born in Stratford, Ont., and crosses the international boundary between the two nations many times a year. For more information about CBC's Opinion section, please see the FAQ.

The United States and Canada share what's been known as the longest undefended border in the world, because of the neighbourly sentiment between the nations. Now defence has become irrelevant, because Canadian lawmakers have effectively invited an invasion by U.S. border authorities.

In the political climate of President Donald Trump's Muslim ban and Facebook groups comprising bigoted customs agents, Canadians travelling to or through the U.S. need to pay close attention to their withering rights.

While far less violent than the horrors at the southern boundary of the United States, problems arising across the northern U.S. line are alarming. Incidents of racial profiling against travellers of colour have risen significantly, and the number of people turned back by U.S. border guards has seen an increase in recent years.

The most recent incursion by U.S. border officials comes in the form of amendments made earlier this year to the set of laws that facilitate cross-border movement, known as the Canada-United States Preclearance Agreement.

Travellers on their way from Canada into the United States should be aware that these changes, ostensibly enacted to increase the efficiency of travel and trade across the boundary, give U.S. officials dangerously extended power in Customs preclearance areas on Canadian ground.