As a border community, residents in Fort Frances—and indeed right across Rainy River District—know firsthand the benefits of having relatively easy access to the United States via the international bridge here or crossing over at Baudette.
Many families on both sides of the border are linked by marriage, and many babies from International Falls were born at La Verendrye here before a hospital was built over there.
In terms of business, many district companies actively are trying to lure U.S. customers over here (helped, in large part, by the great exchange rate), while others depend on exporting their products south of the border to survive and thrive.
And that’s not to mention how much the whole region’s economy hinges on U.S. tourists who come to hunt, fish, or otherwise enjoy the great outdoors year after year.
Socially, those wanting to catch the latest flick have to cross the border to go to the movies. Bars and restaurants on the U.S. side, even the bowling alleys there, also boast a regular—and large—Canadian clientele.
As such, a severe tightening of the U.S. border in the wake of last month’s terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. will have a drastic impact here—in our lifestyles, pocketbooks, and simply having to put up with a constant lineup of vehicles along Central Avenue and down Third Street West.
But does this mean Canada should rush to harmonize its border with the U.S., and revamp our immigration policies so they fall in line with Washington’s view of the world?
True, Canada must do a better job of screening who we let into our country and, more importantly, making sure those who are deported—for whatever reason—in fact leave the country immediately.
But to be fair, Canada is no more a “safe haven” for terrorists than the United States or any other western country. The group involved with last month’s attacks lived—and learned to fly—right among Americans. And let’s be frank, if there is a so-called “Canadian connection” in all this, U.S. Customs let these same people in that we did.
One also just has to look at the Oklahoma City bombing to know terrorism can fester from within—without anyone having to cross a border.
We must not allow terrorism to destroy “the world’s longest undefended border” that’s at the heart of the unique relationship Canadians and Americans enjoy. Equally, we must not allow terrorism to compromise our own sovereignty or values.