Masse Demands Answers on Emergency Vehicle Hold-Ups at the CAN-US Border

House of Commons Debates
November 20, 2007

Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, yesterday's softball lob from the government benches on emergency vehicles being stopped at the U.S.-Canada border is not going to cut it for Canadian families who depend upon cross-border cooperation in 911 emergencies.

It is not just one fire truck. It is not just one ambulance. These are not isolated incidents. In the past two years, 10 cardiac cases in Windsor alone have been stopped and pulled over. Why? It is because U.S. protocol says so and this government agreed to it.

Why did the minister not demand that the U.S. change this protocol, or did he not even know it was happening?

Hon. Stockwell Day (Minister of Public Safety, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, we take action immediately on situations like this. The western hemisphere travel initiative, which was announced by the Americans, is something that we have had concern with a number of times and we have addressed many of the unintended consequences of that.

I have not only written to the secretary related to homeland security, Michael Chertoff, on this. I have talked to him specifically about the incidents related to the fire crew and also to the ambulance. I have his assurance that this is not a policy of theirs. He looked into it directly and has given me assurance that he will make that communication clear to his people that the tradition of Canadians and Americans helping each other will continue.

Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I am glad the minister finally found a phone, because when we investigated where his letter was, the Department of Homeland Security could not find it. I guess it is locked up at the border, like everything else.

What I do want to know is why the minister has not called in the ambassador. It is not only just people and trade. It is lives that are being put at risk. Why is the ambassador of the United States not being called in for us to demand an explanation on these border practices, and have that government stop this protocol that is putting Canadians at risk for no reason?

Hon. Stockwell Day (Minister of Public Safety, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated, the western hemisphere travel initiative has engendered a lot of concerns on our part. We do not like the fact that there have been some unintended consequences of this, and that is why I have not only written to the secretary of state responsible for homeland security but I have talked to him personally.

If my colleague was truly concerned, he might have asked me for the number of the people who could address this, rather than filing in or dialing in to a receptionist somewhere and asking if that person had a copy of my letter.