Mending fences, building bridges: US – Canada relations
By R. Mark Frey
ST. PAUL, Minn. (March 12, 2016) — Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, was in Washington, D.C. late last week to meet with President Obama and others to discuss several issues of mutual concern to our nations.
With new leadership in Canada and the Keystone pipeline debacle now behind us, it seems that we’ve entered a new era in relations between the two countries with efforts to work together on a number of matters. Trudeau, the son of much-revered former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, with his youthful energy, charisma, and optimism won many over in our nation’s capital (a city sadly tainted by its cynical take on politics, the proper role of government, and the human condition), especially at the state dinner hosted by the Obamas.
Remarkably, this was the first state dinner for a Canadian prime minister in 19 years, a surprise given our nations’ unique relationship, let alone the fact that we share the longest international border in the world, one that sees approximately 400,000 people and roughly $2 billion in goods and services crossing it daily, making Canada our number-one trade partner.
Issues addressed in discussions during Trudeau’s stay included climate change (reduction of methane emissions from oil and gas facilities, protection of the Arctic through regulation of industrial and commercial activity that satisfies “national and global climate and environmental goals, and Indigenous rights and agreements”, and continued development of clean, renewable energy), trade (country of origin labeling for beef and pork, softwood lumber), and border security.
In this post-9/11 world, where terrorists, borders, immigrants, and security seem to lurk about in the minds of all, it was refreshing to hear straight talk from calm, mature leadership about the importance of both border security and continued free flow of peoples and goods between our two nations. No fear mongering calls for a huge wall as suggested by former Republican presidential candidate and current Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker, but rather smart approaches to meeting both objectives.
On the table, specifically, was expansion of pre-clearance entry operations beyond certain key airports to such other points as train and bus stations, off highways, and ships. Specific sites included Billy Bishop Airport in Toronto, Jean Lesage International Airport in Quebec City, and rail stations in Montreal (Gare Centrale) and Vancouver (Rocky Mountaineer).
Not to be left out of the mix is eligibility for entry into the United States and Canada by Canadian and U.S. citizens respectively. As it currently exists, Canadian citizens may enter the United States with only a passport, no visa required.
Those individuals with Canadian permanent residence, however, are required to obtain a visa to enter the United States with exception being made for those citizens of countries eligible for the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. (More detailed information about U.S. entry requirements for Canadians may be found at: https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/619/~/visiting-the-u.s.—documents-required-for-canadian-citizens-%2F-residents-%2F).
By the same token, citizens of the United States may enter Canada with only proof of their U.S. citizenship such as a passport, birth certificate, certificate of citizenship or naturalization, or a Certificate of Indian Status along with photo identification. The Canadian government recommends, nonetheless, that U.S. citizens use their U.S. passports for entry. Likewise, U.S. permanent residents may enter Canada with only their permanent resident card, although it is advisable to carry a passport. (More information may be found at: http://www.cbsa.gc.ca/travel-voyage/td-dv-eng.html#_s2a).
Some changes for entry into Canada will become effective March 15, 2016. Although nothing changes for U.S. citizens, U.S. permanent residents flying to Canada will need an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA). ETA is required of those foreign nationals from certain countries considered visa exempt by Canada. This rule change does not, however, affect U.S. permanent resident entries by land or sea. (More information about eTA may be found at: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/helpcentre/answer.asp?qnum=1053&top=16).
The relationship between Canada and the United States is a special, evolving one. Although it is bigger and more comprehensive than the one existing between the leaders in place at any moment in time, those leaders, with the power entrusted to them, play a critical role in the dynamic, political dance. The arrival of Prime Minister Trudeau makes one hopeful for further progress in U.S.- Canada relations, especially if the right presidential candidate is elected come November to build upon what has been established to date.
R. Mark Frey is a St. Paul, Minnesota attorney who has practiced immigration law exclusively for more than 25 years with an emphasis on political asylum, family and marriage-based immigration, naturalization, removal defense, appeals, H-1B visas, and religious workers.