Borderline crazy

Borderline crazy

The Windsor Star
Tue 20 Nov 2007
Page: A3
Section: News
Byline: Gord Henderson
Column: Gord Henderson
Source: Windsor Star

It's appalling that Canadians are fighting and dying in the hills of Afghanistan to protect America's back from real terrorists, while here at home even our life-and-death cardiac cases are treated as mortal threats to U.S. security.

We used to be best friends and first-rate neighbours. As close and cuddly as Tennessee cousins. Now Canadians have to wonder if we're even seen as allies in the global fight against terrorism, given the outrageous treatment U.S. border guards gave CAW Local 444 executive Rick Laporte and, it turns out, at least nine other Windsor area residents over the last two years.

Does it get any more sickening than this -- that an ambulance carrying a critically ill heart attack patient, who had to be shocked back to life twice, should be sent to secondary inspection for I.D. confirmation instead of being flagged through or given a high-speed escort? Maybe Laporte was lucky. At least they didn't ship him off to Syria for further grilling.

What kind of dolts would squander three minutes to question an ambulance driver, in a medical crisis where every moment is precious, when an individual's life hangs by a thread?

That's damn scary because the next time it could be your loved ones or mine needing the kind of emergency medical help that's not always available in a small, underserviced city like Windsor.

To say this was unneighbourly would be an understatement. We are not the Taliban. We are not, most of us, al-Qaida. But more and more, that's how we're treated at the border, as intruders who could be lugging dirty bombs.

SCARRED BY 9-11

No question about it. Americans were scarred by 9-11. It left them hyper-suspicious and created a siege mentality. But when did common sense go out the window? I mean, who in their right mind (apart from those who watch too much TV) would see an ambulance, with siren wailing and lights flashing, as a brilliant way for terrorists to slip through and unleash mayhem on America?

What's going on in the minds of U.S. border guards? What was once the friendliest country in the world is now guarded by zealous, leather-gloved individuals who, it appears, couldn't crack a smile or engage in small talk to save their souls. I don't mind them being thorough. That's their job. But why are so many Canadians getting the Big Brother, big chill vibes? Like we're all from terrorist-loving Canuckistan.

Here's the crazy thing. While these guys hassle our heart attack victims and block Quebec firefighters from helping their U.S. neighbours, much of the border remains a go-as-you-please zone for terrorists. On the same day we learned of Laporte's mistreatment, it was revealed that three of four U.S. government security test runs involving the smuggling of weapons-grade uranium at remote border locations had been successful.

In other words, the U.S. is still a sitting duck. And these guys are wasting time and resources interrogating ambulance drivers in downtown Detroit? It makes no sense.

Windsor MP Brian Masse, NDP critic for transport and Canada-U.S. relations, told me the Laporte case is just one particularly outrageous example of ever-tightening U.S. border controls. Masse, who has been swamped with complaints from constituents, especially commuters, about poor treatment by U.S. border guards, said the fact there are now American gunboats on the Great Lakes speaks volumes about how circumstances have altered.

The irony, said Masse, is that many commuters, including those from Muslim countries, work as doctors and nurses in Detroit and spend their days saving American lives while enduring security nightmares at the border. "They're contributing to the American economy and saving Americans every day of the week," fumed Masse as he called for creation of a border authority and the appointment of an ombudsman to handle border beefs.

Remember how generous Canadians were in the aftermath of 9-11? People in places like Gander, Nfld., opened their hearts and their homes to thousands of stranded American travellers. People in Windsor and other Canadian cities lined up to donate blood, money and blankets. The American flag was flying everywhere in Windsor.

And this is how they return the favour? By holding up ambulances on mercy runs?

Talk about ingratitude.

ghenderson@thestar.canwest.com