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April '10

Tuesday 30 March 2010

Our Borders

Don Grant

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The presentation concerned unsolved problems Canada has with nations on its borders. Internationally, we have differences with Denmark, Russia, France and the United States over territorial claims. Internally, we have a major smuggling problem with the Awakasasne First Nation because of provincial boundaries as well as the international border.

With Denmark, which handles foreign affairs for Greenland, we have a dispute over ownership of Hans Island, a barren rock about the size of RIM Park in Waterloo which straddles the international border between Canada and Greenland.

The Russians have claimed ownership of the North Pole, whereas Canada and most other nations, at least those that are concerned, posit that the pole lies in international waters.

France has claimed a larger exclusive economic zone within Canada’s territorial waters adjacent to the French islands of St. Pierre & Miquelon than previously settled after a long legal battle.

Our differences wit the the USA concern the Alaska/Yukon, the Alaska/ British Columbia, and the Maine/New Brunswick marine borders, as well as whether the Northwest Passage transits Canada’s internal waters.

Peculiar situations along the Canada/ USA border were illustrated. Airports that straddle the border. Situations

 for Alaska, Washington, Minnesota, and New Brunswick where citizens cannot pass by land from one part of their state or province to another, without crossing the international border. Hyder, AK, a community with a US Post Office, but no customs nor immigration post, that uses a British Columbia telephone exchange and area code, and has its electricity supplied by BC Hydro.

Hardships caused by the recent tougher border crossing restrictions were touched on. A farmer in New Brunswick, where the road running past his farm gate is in Maine, has been threatened with arrest if he doesn’t travel 23 kms to an entry point to check in, when in past he just drove a kilometre to an intersection to go shopping in Canada.

The Akwasasne First Nation reserve is across the St. Lawrence River from Cornwall, ON. One island lies in Ontario but the mainland portion of the reserve is in Quebec and New York state, which has the only road access onto the reserve. This makes policing most difficult. The RCMP estimate 20,000 cartons of cigarettes are smuggled through the reserve into Canada every week. Drugs and people are smuggled in the opposite direction.

The presentation concluded with the mystery of Chester Alan Arthur, 21st president of the USA , who may well have been the only Canadian born president. We’ll never know as he burned all his personal papers when leaving office!

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