In these days of shrewd warmongering, those of us living north of the 49th can rest assured that, according to a Canada Customs phone recording, "Customs officers are currently exercising increased vigilance at all ports of entry.' And that vigilance has finally paid off.After a fashion anyway. But while they may not have intercepted any terrorist training manuals, weapons or drugs, they have found tapes. No, no... not that kind of tape. Nothing obscene. But they are controversial. Unpopular anyway. Well, in fact, they're quite popular. To be honest, I don't know what they think they've found.
What they've actually found is 50 copies of Californian Frank Dorrel's video What I've Learned About U.S. Foreign Policy. The said items were on their way to Science for Peace in T.O. but are now being held for inspection due to the fact that they may constitute "hate propaganda" or "obscenity."
Unless they're referring to the obscenity of the American war fetish, I'm confused. The video is a compilation of speeches and short documentaries made by prominent American personalities ranging from Martin Luther King Jr. to Ed Asner and Susan Sarandon, which together portray an appropriately stained patchwork picture of America's role in the world.
"I get calls almost every week from people saying it's changed their lives," Dorrel happily relates.
Since the only change in people's lives the American government seems able to brook is a change in soft drink brands, a "threat' is at least conceivable. But why are the tapes being waylaid on their way to Canada? A Customs official informs me that "only items that would have been spot-checked and found to have restricted items would be held."
Along with hate propaganda, he says "pornography or weapons" constitute restricted material. Customs' Web site adds "seditious material" -- advocating the use of force to overthrow the government -- to that list. Since Ed Asner doesn't do nudity and MLK wouldn't have advocated the use of force to overthrow a felled tree, the only possible scenario of concern I can think of is if someone were to unravel the actual cassette tape and use it to strangle a member of Parliament.
In-depth spot-checks are, in theory, random. But this isn't the first time Dorrel's video has -- oops! -- randomly found its way onto an inspector's desk. "Sometimes people receive it in the mail and it's been opened,' he tells me.
And that phenomenon is by no means localized to his side of the border. Science for Peace's Jean Smith had a similar experience. "I once ordered 15, and they were held. They took too long. (When I got them) they had on them "Opened by Canada Customs.''
I call a higher-ranking spokesdrone, Canada Customs' Colette Gentes-Hawn, to get specific information on what is of such concern about this particular package. Familiar with the media relations script, she obliges me with "We can't comment on any person's importation." She's happy to inform me of the general process, though. "All goods entering Canada are subject to inspection. We do seize any material that may be obscene or hateful."
Not quite believing that this is determined by a package's "bad vibes," I press for what clues Customs agents look for. Apparently, there's only one. "It would depend on factors such as where it's coming from and where it's going." In other words, Dorrel's on a list.
If this holdup of material is part of the "harmonization" of Canadian Customs with U.S. border policies, one wonders what other harmonies are in store for us.