The U.S. Border Feels Like Hostile Territory To Canadians Like Me

I feel like I’ve lived my life with one foot in the U.S. and the other in Canada — that’s how central the world’s longest unprotected border has been to my family’s story.

When I was growing up in the 1990s and early 2000s, my family lived in a suburb of Detroit. This meant traversing the Ambassador Bridge to Windsor, Ont. on our way to visit family for Christmas in London, Ont.

Sometimes it was a shorter trip, one that consisted of crossing the bridge into Canada, then turning around to go back in at the port of entry — the seemingly unending ritual of renewing our visas, which allowed my father to work in America under NAFTA, and for my brothers, mother and I to live there as dependents.

As I grew older, the sum of my concerns progressed from a young boy’s fear of heights (seriously, you could feel that bridge sway) to the teenage restlessness that comes with being trapped in a car with your parents for hours on end.

Sure, there were close calls — sometimes we’d return home with our statuses temporarily in limbo — but on the whole, crossing the Canada-U.S. border was just another exit on the way to somewhere. In fanciful hindsight, I imagine a border guard cracked a smile, once. But you know how unreliable childhood memories are.

Needless to say, that all changed after Sept. 11, 2001. By the time 2006 rolled around and my twin brother and I moved to London, Ont. for university, our jaunts over the border became increasingly fraught.

We’d visit home every month or so — parental guilt made for excellent fuel. Our route now took the beat-up Pontiac Sunfire we shared over the Blue Water Bridge between Port Huron, Ont. and Sarnia, Ont. On the weekends we couldn’t or wouldn’t drive, the Greyhound bus was our connection to downtown Detroit.

Things seemed to get worse slowly, at first.

For example, there were now border guards pulling people of colour aside for questioning noticeably more often, particularly if they spoke a foreign language. (Every. Damn. Time.)

Meanwhile, yours truly (and my twin) seemed to float through security checks without a second glance. “What’s in your luggage?” the guard would ask. “A load of dirty laundry for mom!” we’d reply. The agent would laugh and wave us through. We used this line a lot.

It wasn’t always white privilege and rainbows, though, especially if our Polish …read more

Source:: The Huffington Post – Canada Travel


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