Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Freedom of Travel

I am pasting in here a copy of the email that I sent today to the Prime Minister, the Immigration Minister, and my MP.

I know that you are hearing from many Canadians right now who want to see our country help the people currently affected by the US ban. I wish to add my voice to those urging our government to remove the US status as a safe haven, fast track the processing of refugees who have already been vetted by the US, and raise targets for admission of refugees. But I also want to see some assurance from the Canadian government that our border agencies will treat all travellers as free human beings, entitled to basic rights.
When a traveller is detained, their family and lawyers should be given access to them, and they should have the right and opportunity to initiate communication with their family and lawyers. This is particularly essential if the traveller being detained is a minor: there is simply no excuse for refusing a parent access to their child. If Canada does not have regulations which provide for these rights, we should.
Many of the changes I have seen over the past decades to airport security, such as the strict rules for what may be brought in carry-on luggage, do help me to feel safer when I travel. But I am not convinced that there is a sufficient gain in safety to justify policies which are increasingly preventing legitimate travel by innocent people. There needs to be greater transparency and clearer means of appeal for travellers who are put on no-fly lists, or are otherwise barred from travel.
I also have concerns about the recent changes that demand Canadian citizens always travel on a Canadian passport. Since I became a citizen of Canada I have not renewed any passport other than my Canadian one, and use it exclusively for travel. I do not understand why somebody who has moved from Canada to another country should not be able to do the same. It can be very difficult to renew a passport from overseas. I think that when regulations are made, we should always consider whether we would consider that regulation reasonable if other countries were to put similar rules in place.
The freedom to travel is more than just a luxury. Travel allows family to be with each other at critical moments in their lives. It allows experts in many fields to meet with their counterparts in other countries to share knowledge, helping to build a better future for us all. It allows athletes, who have trained hard to represent their countries, to compete in friendship with their counterparts from around the world. I hope that Canada will stand out in the coming years as a nation that supports this freedom.

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