False expectations sown about new travel initiative
A senior Homeland Security official on Wednesday accused the Canadian government of sowing confusion about looming passport requirements at the Canada-U.S. land border, even as U.S. officials again admitted they don’t know when the plan will come into full force.
Kathleen Kraninger, director of Homeland Security’s screening co-ordination office, said Ottawa had contributed to public uncertainty about the impending U.S. rules by creating false expectations the Bush administration might scrap the controversial Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI).
“..I’ll just cut through it and say, very honestly, the fact that the Canadian government was very concerned about the impact in the relationship that this would have (and) has been really saying ‘Do we really want to do this? Is the U.S. government really going to do this? Maybe Congress will stop them? Maybe we’ll go back to just the way things have always been.’ That kind of perspective is clearly what exacerbates confusion at the local level..”, Ms. Kraninger told a group of academics and diplomats at a forum organized by the Woodrow Wilson Centre’s Canadian Studies program.
“Clearly that kind of interest and message and confusion is in some peoples’ interest. That’s just something I just would want to lay on the table.”
The swipe drew a tart response from Kevin O’Shea, the political affairs minister at the Canadian Embassy, who said Ottawa has “never opposed” and “never tried, or sought, to cause confusion” about the passport plan.
“Our primary concern has been the implementation of it,” Mr. O’Shea said.
The exchange revealed the depth of bilateral tension that has developed between the U.S. and Canada as the Bush administration rushes to begin implementing the WHTI at land border crossing as early as January 2008.
Canadian officials have long complained, both in private and public settings, that blame for confusion over the plan falls squarely at the Bush administration’s doorstep.
With time running out before the potential enforcement of new travel document rules, the U.S. has yet to reach agreement with Canada on an acceptable “alternative document” to a passport that Canadians can use to cross land borders.
Talks about the possible use of security-enhanced driver’s licences — which denote citizenship and identity — are still in their infancy with only one approved pilot project underway.
While Congress has extended the deadline for implementation until June 2009, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has repeatedly said he will not wait to begin enforcement.
…this post forwarded by a Windsor Humanist (N.Hod) after a May 31, 2007 article by Sheldon Alberts in The National Post