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Cary Brunswick

July 13, 2009

A changing of the guard at the border

I crossed the U.S.-Canadian border a few times last week and there was a profound change at the crossings in the manner and temper of the border guards.

You've probably experienced or heard about the pleasantries of Canadian guards over the years. You know, with their accents and a ``have a nice time in Canada, eh.'' They've always been friendly and courteous, with hardly a suspicion beyond meat products and that you might have an extra bottle from the duty-free.

The American ones were always more unpredictable, but since 9/11 the nation's terrorist concerns had forced the guards, who now worked for the Department of Homeland Security, to become hard-nosed, armed and unfriendly.

Questioning, with an aggressive tone, usually proceeded along the lines of ``what's your citizenship? Where do you live? Why were you in Canada and for how long? Are you the only people in the car? How about weapons or explosives? Pop the trunk and we'll have a look.''

You felt sorry for anyone of Arab descent, because you knew how they were being grilled and probably pulled over and searched.

But last week, you could tell there was a major change as we approached the Canadian border at the Thousand Islands crossing. There was a lengthy line-up and wait to get into Canada, and you could see nearby that traffic was moving quickly at the U.S. crossing with hardly a wait.

And the questioning, after a 30-minute wait, was not pleasant at all. It was so intense, you felt if you joked that, yes, you had a trunkload of weapons destined for the Taliban you'd get a rifle butt in the side of the head. But finally we were waved through without undergoing a search.

We unloaded on Howe Island, and about 90 minutes after crossing into Canada, I went back to the border to meet some friends on the U.S. side.

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Cary Brunswick

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