As summit nears, entry on Canada border toughens
By Colin Nickerson, Globe Staff, 4/19/2001
QUEBEC CITY - The world's friendliest border became a lot unfriendlier this
week as Canada toughened entry procedures in an effort to weed potential
troublemakers from the thousands of protesters heading north to try to
disrupt this weekend's Summit of the Americas.
Ironically, the country that once opened its doors to a flood of
Vietnam-era draft dodgers is even using old convictions from antiwar
demonstrations of the 1960s and 70s as one reason to deny entry to some
That's what happened to Jeff Crosby, president of Massachusetts' North
Shore Labor Council and a longtime union activist, as he arrived Tuesday at
the Stanstead, Quebec, border crossing at the northern tip of Interstate 91.
Instead of the usual easy entry to Canada, he and a companion joined the
scores of would-be protesters from the United States pronounced
"inadmissable" to Canada in recent days after unusually intensive
background checks divulged even minor criminal records. By week's end,
activists said, large numbers of thwarted demonstrators may be stranded at
American border towns and in Canadian international airports.
Even some of those getting through claim they have been grilled about their
political views in a way more associated with dictatorial states.
"It's harassment," said Karen Hansen-Kuhn of the American protest group
Alliance for Responsible Trade, who, after an hour of intensive questioning
at Quebec City's airport, was permitted to enter Canada to join the
protests - and promptly held a press conference denouncing her host.
"I've never been stopped like that," she said. "Even in countries emerging
from civil wars."
Crosby and his five traveling companions, who made no secret that they were
bound for Quebec City to take part in demonstrations, were questioned
closely for two hours by Canadian immigration officials. Their
luggage was searched and a book on the anti-free trade movement, "Allies
Across the Border," was pored over by one inspector for nearly 30 minutes,
according to Crosby.
Finally Crosby was given the bounce after admitting to a conviction: In
1971, in a Vietnam War protest, he spray-painted a slogan on a piece of
plywood affixed to a post office window in Massachusetts. He was found
guilty and fined $75.
Thirty years later, he paid an even more irksome price.
"For a minor offense, I'm suddenly considered such a threat to Canada that
I'm ruled inadmissable," Crosby said in an interview from Derby Line, Vt.,
where he and other activists refused entry to Canada have taken shelter in
the Unitarian Church. "It's a draconian crackdown whose only purpose is to
keep down the numbers of protesters headed for the summit."
Also denied entry was David Bjorkman, another Bay State union worker.
Crosby's four other companions - two adult activists and a pair of Melrose
high school students making a video on the antiglobalization movement -
were allowed to enter Quebec.
Canada's nervousness is understandable. Yesterday, six of its own citizens
were arrested in Quebec City and Montreal and accused of plotting to attack
the summit with smoke bombs made of highway flares and tear gas.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police spokesman Mike Gaudet said the devices could
have "caused confusion and even serious injury" had they exploded in a
crowd, as was apparently the plan. Police said the conspirators were
members of a "well-organized" underground group whose aim was to "breach
the perimeter fence" surrounding the summit site.
Canada is not providing exact numbers, but makes no bones that it is
seeking to turn back people it deems potentially violent while allowing in
the much larger numbers of peaceful protesters. A criminal record is one
crude indicator of a propensity for trouble, said Immigrations Canada
spokesman Richard St. Louis.
"We believe people have a right to peacefully protest. But we also have a
duty to screen against those who might make trouble," St. Louis said. "This
is a sovereign nation. Entry to Canada is a privilege, not a right - even
At least one guilty plea is being overlooked, however. Under normal
circumstances, even a single conviction of driving while intoxicated would
be reason for Canada to deny entry. But President Bush need not fear being
turned back when he arrives at the Summit of the Americas.
"It's ridiculous to even ask if we are going to refuse the president of the
United States because of his mistake," said a Foreign Ministry official.
"Besides, in Canada, he will have a driver."
This story ran on page 8 of the Boston Globe on 4/19/2001.
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