I have a confession to make. Since January of 2010, my wife and I have visited Cuba four times. So what, one might ask? Cuba has always been a popular destination for Canadians seeking some respite from harsh Canadian winters. What harm is there in that?
Well, potentially a great deal, if I understand the terms of the new border security pact that the Harper government has struck with the Obama government. Called Beyond the Border, it is being extolled by our 'leader' as the biggest breakthrough in Canada/U.S. affairs since the North American free trade pact. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, the devil is in the details.
As reported in The Star, one of those details is the following:
Under a sweeping new entry-exit system to be in place next year Canada will share more information on travellers, including people arriving here from abroad, or going from here to third countries. So-called “trusted” travellers will be speeded across borders, while those deemed “high risk” for terror, crime or immigration fraud will be red-flagged, or prevented from getting here.
In his column, Thomas Walkom elaborates:
Canada will be required to give more information about its citizens and residents to the U.S. By 2013, the countries promise to put in place a “systematic and automated biographical information-sharing capability” and by 2014 a “biometric information-sharing capability.”
A new exit-control system will be put in place for those crossing the land border between Canada and the U.S. in order to “exchange biographical information on travellers.”
So what does any of this have to do with our frequent visits to Cuba? Well, perhaps the most salient fact is that since 1982, Cuba has been designated by the Americans as a '"state sponsor of terrorism," the reasons for which can be seen by clicking on this link, reasons that are, in my view, typical of the United States' paranoid and jaundiced contempt for countries that don't embrace their worldview and values.
Nonetheless, I think the implication of this new border deal are clear. Personally, since I have not travelled to the U.S. for over 10 years, I doubt that the pact will have much effect on me, since if I had to choose between the two countries, Cuba would be my preferred destination.
However, fate can be capricious, and who knows if circumstances might at some point necessitate a visit to the U.S., that benighted country where reason has been largely supplanted by hysteria, and where productive policy has been replaced by demagoguery? Will I find myself being denied entry for my love of Cuba and its people, about whom I have written previously on this blog? Will I be taken to a back room and grilled about my relationship with certain Cubans that we have become friends with outside of the resort? Will I be subjected to the dreaded and invasive body search that can be imposed on the most unlikely of travellers?
These are questions that apparently are of no concern to Stephen Harper, who seems perfectly content to surrender our privacy rights and sovereignty because of the boost the pact will give to cross-border trade.
Quaint notions, sovereignty and privacy rights, aren't they?