I have just arrived home from a business trip out West, where I thoroughly enjoyed what is very typically, Western Hospitality. But; I wasn’t the only person out West last week. So were all the Premiers. “Dirty Bernie Landry” of Quebec included.
And why were all the provincial leaders in beautiful Vancouver? To discuss the future of Canada’s universally available FREE health-care policy.
This six day business trip of mine was extraordinarily hectic, leaving me with very little time between appointments. But; when I had time, I listened to some talk radio, read the local news: especially the editorials, and chatted with my clients and associates. All in all, nothing about this trip was out of the ordinary; except for one incredible instance.
I had not planned on going to Seattle, however; a business opportunity presented itself which I could not avoid. And not being prepared to go to the USA, meant that I did not have a passport or a birth certificate with me.
I called Air Canada to see if not having either of these two documents was going to be problematic. No problem the Air Canada clerk told me over the phone. Because, without either of those two documents, they wouldn’t even let me on the plane flying into the USA.
Whenever I am on the West Coast, I do my absolute best to keep my internal clock on Eastern time. I go to bed at around 7:00 or 8:00 o’clock in the early evening. West Coast time. And I get up at around 3:30 in the morning. Also West Coast time. This way, when I come home, I don’t have to once again readjust.
I decided to travel to the USA by car. If they turned me back at the border, at least I tried, and I wouldn’t forfeit a $500 airplane ticket. But, from what the Air Canada clerk had to say; my chances of crossing into the US weren’t all that good.
I arrived at the Peace Arch Border at around 6:00 o’clock in the morning, Pacific time. I was the only car there.
“What’s your country of citizenship”?
“Where were you born”?
“Where are you going”?
“What’s the purpose of your trip”?
“What kind of business”?
“Hospitality advertising and marketing”.
“How long will you be in the States”?
“Just for the day”.
“Have a good safe trip”.
With that, I said thank you, and continued along my merry way. The entire exchange took less than one minute.
Coming back was entirely a different story.
“What’s your name”?
“You’re a citizen of which country”?
“How long have you been in the States”?
“Just a few hours”.
“What are you bringing back”?
“Let me see your passport”?
“I don’t have one”?
“Because I don’t”.
“Let me see your birth certificate”?
“I don’t have one”.
“Because I don’t. Here’s my driver’s permit”.
“Your driver’s permit doesn’t tell me that you’re a Canadian. Why should I take your word for it”?
“Because I speak English better than you; et je parle français aussi”.
With that, he angrily scribbled something on a piece of paper and ordered me to pull into immigration. By this time, I had already been waiting between 20 and 30 minutes in a line up just to have the “pleasure” of meeting this “charm school drop-out”.
I went into the immigration department where I took my turn in a short line behind the “other” immigrants wanting to enter Canada. There were several clerks hanging around behind the counter trying to look busy, as they made an obvious effort not to make eye-contact with any of the few people waiting in line. God forbid if they should have made eye-contact; then they might have had to serve someone.
So, here I stood in an immigration line, waiting to be served by someone who wasn’t interested in doing his/her job. And all the while, I did a slow burn.
“Can I help you”? Said the young Asian lady from the sub-continent, on the other side of the counter.
“Yes. I was told to come to this office and give you this paper”.
“Of what country are you a citizen”?
“I am a Canadian. I am a born Canadian who happened to be in the USA for a few hours on business. I do not have a passport or a birth certificate with me. I have a driver’s permit with my photo on it (which I presented to her). And that’s it.”
“Why don’t you have your passport or birth certificate with you”?
“Because I don’t”.
“Well, we have a problem”.
“No. You have a problem. I am a Canadian citizen, and I am coming home, and there is not a damn thing you, or anyone else here is going to do to prevent that”.
“Oh. I see. We must search your car”.
“There’s the car. Here’s the key”.
“No. You have to go to customs at the other end of the building. And they will search the car”.
“Let them come here”.
“No. You must go there. And in the meantime, I will keep your driver’s permit”.
With that exchange done. I headed back to the other end of the building where my slow burn was now just plain seething.
Once at the other end of the building, I met a group of government fat-asses who were doing absolutely nothing that I could see to earn their living.
Although they were just hanging around, they were hanging around in style.
These Canada custom’s people were all decked out in pitch-black “battle” fatigues you would associate with a crack SWAT team. They wore Sam Brown belts with everything on them which you could imagine, everything that is, but a gun. Thank God.
And if this uniform was designed to project a certain image to the potential bad guys; I assure you, that it did more for their own personal image. Canada customs at this particular border crossing was now “Rambo” country.
An attractive, youngish, female custom’s clerk approached me in her very impressive uniform (sexy as hell), and took my newest paper from my hand.
“Why don’t you have a passport or birth certificate with you”?
“Because I don’t”.
“Is the car in your name”?
“No. It’s a rental”.
“From which rental company”?
“I don’t remember”. Which I honestly didn’t. I was tired. And remembering which of a half dozen companies I might have rented the car from was not on the top of my mind.
“Here’s the key. The name of the car rental company’s on it.
So, my car was examined by the pretty woman in the SWAT outfit, while the rest of her squad sat around trying to look busy.
Upon her return, she handed me the key, with yet another form to hand over to the clerk at the immigration office who still had my driver’s permit.
“You know what the problem is”? I said to everyone whose attention I was able to secure. “If I was a Tamil Tiger, who showed up at this border crossing with no papers whatsoever. And if I promised to suck off of the welfare system for as long as I could. And gave you a phony address where you could never find me, even if you had the inclination. I would already be in the country”.
With that, I left the building, while the group of black clad “clerks” looked on in obvious discomfort. No one said a word to me on my way out.
I picked up my driver’s permit from the immigration lady who tried to be pleasant. The pleasantry was very much one sided. I was not in a pleasant mood.
After walking to my car, I considered going back to the immigration office to see someone in charge. And as I turned to head back inside, good sense came over me.
Why the hell aggravate myself even more than I was? I just wanted to be done with them.
During my drive back to Vancouver, I thought about what Canada has become. This Prime Minister of ours, Jean Chrétien, and those who preceded him have emasculated our country, and in many ways have turned Canada into a joke.
Think about this. Canada’s dollar is worth about half the US dollar, even though our enormous landmass with its boundless natural resources, and extremely well trained and educated population can do virtually anything.
Canada no longer manufactures things in appreciable quantities. We don’t reward entrepreneurs. And Canada as a whole seems to stand for nothing shy of the status-quo.
On average; Canadians pay more income tax than do Americans who earn more money. And who have a far greater choice of less expensive products.
Our armed forces have to beg to be involved in the anti-terrorist Afghanistan war effort, and is allowed to play with the US military only because we agreed to serve under their command.
And now that we have announced, at least a half a dozen times or more, that we will be sending troops to the region, we can’t get them there. We don’t have the aircraft. And for the few soldiers we have been able to send to the “front”, they have the wrong color uniforms and little “ATV’s” to use as transport.
On recent national news, Canada’s Defense Minister, Art Eggleton, said that Parliament has still not decided under what orders the Canadians will serve. We’re sending them. But; they don’t know if their job is to clean out US latrines, direct traffic or surrender upon confrontation with the enemy. There are no official “Rules of Engagement”.
And the list goes on. My experience at the border was extremely bothersome. Not because I was delayed. But; because I was delayed by phony people dressed in impressive uniforms who tried to emulate the toughness of their American counterparts.
I have traveled to the USA twice since 9/11, and both times, I have encountered professional and respectful US border guards who didn’t submit me to an “interrogation”. The first time I went to the US was just after 9/11 was by airplane when everyone was really on high-alert, where all I was asked for, was some photo ID. The second time, was during this trip, where a simple conversation with the US border guard was sufficient for her to let me in.
If any country has anything to worry about vis a vis immigration, it is the USA. Certainly not Canada. Why would a terrorist ever want to hurt Canada? Especially since Canada is as easy as hell for illegals to get into. Especially through Quebec, where being able to speak French is a virtual lock on entry; regardless of everything else.
Hell; Canada even supports terrorists through our generous welfare system while they scheme to do their evil deeds.
Contrary to Canada, the Americans stand four-square and center for several very lofty principles: especially individual freedom, and the pursuit of happiness.
What does Canada stand for other than the right of big business friendly to the government to enjoy corporate welfare, and an elitist political and judicial system that makes Canada a democracy more in name than in deed?
The only thing left that keeps Canada nominally proud, is Medi-Care; that uniquely Canadian social service that Canada and the provinces now say they can no longer afford to maintain.
I won‘t argue the individual merits of Medi-Care, other than to say that it must be maintained as a totally free and universal social “obligation” at all costs. This is the only thing that Canada has that sets it apart from the rest of the world. And the only thing left that makes living within Canada worth it.
If the governments of Canada decide to privatize Medi-Care, or change it beyond what it was designed to be, there will be absolutely no reason in the world for people like me to remain within Canada.
Without Medi-Care, why should I have to suffer high Canadian taxes, the clickish bureaucracy and the pretense of being a citizen of a “real” country?
Medi-Care is of vital importance to Canada for two incredible reasons. First: Medi-Care is fundamental to the physical, mental and social health of the country. Second: Medi-Care is the only thing keeping many of us from moving South.
Canada has become a country worth living in primarily because of Medi-Care. After that, there is nothing else that Canada has to offer which the USA also doesn’t have; but much better, and much more of. Especially something to stand for.