By Frank Moher
We’ve now seen, for the second time in recent memory, a journalist being harassed by Canadian border guards while trying to enter the country. Three years ago, American talk-radio host and filmmaker Alex Jones was detained for four hours, in the middle of the night, by Citizenship and Immigration Canada agents in Ottawa who confiscated his passport, camera, and belongings. They ordered him back the next morning for further grilling.
Now U.S. public-radio star Amy Goodman, co-host of Democracy Now!, has received a similar hazing while trying to get to a speaking engagement in Vancouver. Goodman got off a bit easier — apparently the guard who interrogated her was mostly concerned that she might say something nasty about the Winter Olympics — but what they have in common is that they were stopped because they might be bringing across the border, not fruits or vegetables, but ideas.
Those ideas could hardly be more opposite — Jones is an extreme libertarian while Goodman comes from the far left — which suggests that it is not a particular ideology but thinking itself, not to mention any opposition to state authority, that causes our border police to become unhinged. We are unlikely to get an explanation or defence out of Citizenship and Immigration over this embarrassment; when Jones was detained, all they had to say was that they could say nothing because “we are forbidden from discussing individual cases.” But it’s time various knuckleheads-in-a-uniform started getting disciplined or fired for their behaviour. Telling them that trade in ideas is not criminal behaviour is not likely to work. Telling them their paycheques are on the line might.
And yes, border guards, if you’re reading this at some point in the future, because I’ve been flagged in your system for speaking ill of your fine work, I did write this. And I’d be glad to discuss it with you — though preferably not while in detention in the middle of the night.