Vive Le Canada

Cdn ambassador to U.S. says proceed slowly with new passport measures
Date: Tuesday, January 23 2007
Topic:


Cdn ambassador to U.S. says proceed slowly with new passport measures

Colin Perkel
Canadian Press

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

TORONTO (CP) - Rash implementation of American passport requirements and other rules that hamper cross-border travel and trade could undermine the very fabric of Canada-U.S. relations, Ottawa's envoy to Washington warned Monday.

In a speech to the Empire Club, Michael Wilson urged the U.S. to proceed slowly in putting in place measures that make its northern border a more formidable barrier. "Canada has seen a gradual thickening of the border over the past four years - initiatives that jeopardize our long-standing commercial and people-to-people connections," Wilson said.

"If not implemented carefully, (the measures) will undermine the foundation of NAFTA - the backbone of our economic integration - as well as our 140 years of shared friendship and family connections."

As part of its war against terrorism, Washington is bringing in its Western Travel Initiative.

Starting Tuesday, all air travellers to the United States need a passport to enter the country.

The requirement will be extended to those arriving at land border crossings as early as a year from now.

"We are still encouraging the U.S. to take all of the necessary time required to get this right," Wilson said.

"We cannot rush into this and have a cold-turkey implementation without appropriate flexibility and phasing in."

Wilson did say he sensed more willingness in the U.S. to address Canadian concerns that stricter border-crossing rules will hamper commerce and damage tourism.

He also said he expects the American passport requirement for those arriving by air to "go smoothly" when it kicks in Tuesday.

About 95 per cent of air travellers between the two countries already use passports, the ambassador noted.

The Americans "also intend to demonstrate flexibility" in implementing the new measure, Wilson said, but he did not elaborate.

John Nay, the U.S. consulate general in Toronto, said the passport requirement will enhance security, but also speed up border crossings for those carrying appropriate documents.

"It's the new reality," Nay said. "But it isn't necessarily a negative one."

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[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on January 24, 2007]

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