as the upcoming summit of the
Americas in Quebec City draws near, Canadian officials have begun to monitor the Canadian border tightly in hopes of heading off thousands of U.S. activists. In response, groups across the continent are planning border actions to protest not only the Summit and the FTAA but also the potential closing of border points.
In moves reminiscent of last June's Organization of American States (OAS) meeting in Windsor, when over 500 U.S. citizens were turned away at the Detroit/Windsor border, some U.S. citizens have already been barred from Canada. Several U.S. activists were denied entry during Comité d'Accueil du Sommet des Amériques (CASA) spokescouncil meetings in Quebec City. On the first occasion, 10 activists from New York City (representing the NYC Direct Action Network, the Ya Basta! Collective and IndyMedia) were turned away even though none of them had criminal records.
At Immigration Canada, Richard Saint-Louis says the department is "using the same rules we use every day. If people (trying to come) have had problems with the law before, that might be a problem. We have to make sure that those allowed in have legitimate reasons to come to the country."
But civil liberties lawyer Clayton Ruby says the crackdown is "a misinterpretation of our law and an abuse of the discretion given (border officials).' He points out that George W. has an impaired driving record and that many U.S. visitors have that kind of criminal record and are not turned back. "They're supposed to look at whether the record shows danger in the sense of a violent crime' and not merely exclude because of a primarily regulatory crime, he says.
In response to the Canadian government's plans to block U.S. citizens, numerous groups are planning large-scale border-crossing protests. Activists from Tijuana, San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Juarez/El Paso and Tucson are currently organizing an action in Tijuana-San Diego.
Further north, at Blaine, Washington, Peace Arch Coalition members from Vancouver, Portland, Victoria and Seattle are planning a cross-border No Way FTAA action day on April 21. New York City's Ya Basta! Collective is planning a convergence on the border at Champlain, New York. They intend to distribute world passports, consistent with corporate globalization's "free borders" rhetoric.
Organizers in Buffalo/southern Ontario are planning three days of actions at the foot of the Peace Bridge connecting Ontario and New York state. Activists in Windsor and Detroit have similar plans.
Richard Stander, a member of the Maine Global Action Network says there will be a protest in Jackson, and the Vermont Mobilization for Global Justice (VMGJ) plans to coordinate support on the Vermont side for activists trying to cross the border.
In Akwesasne Mohawk territory, which straddles the provinces of Ontario and Quebec and New York state, native activists will be joined by the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP), the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the Cornwall Labour Council, the New York City, Philadelphia and Guelph Direct Action Networks and others in an effort to allow safe passage to protestors entering Canada.
Shawn Brant, a Mohawk and an organizer with OCAP, explains: "Our objective is to carry out an action that truly represents the honour of the Mohawk people.' As NOW goes to press, Rene Sunday, assistant to grand chief Michael Mitchell says the band council at Akwesasne is meeting to formulate an official position on the protest.
The Leroux article is from Alternet, with additional reporting by Enzo Di Matteo