Cornwall ON – Tomorrow should be an interesting day. Although most days are pretty interesting of late. We get so many stories filtering through our desk, and speak to some very interesting people especially now that we’re doing more and more interviews on Seawayradio.com.
It’s been a year now that I’ve been editing this newspaper and immersing more and more into our community. The biggest story during this time has been The Seaway International Bridge Crisis and spin off from it.
For those of you who don’t know about this story last May 31 just about at midnight the Harper Government gave the signal for staff from the CBSA post on the Island in Akwesasne and stand down.
That led to the bridge between the United States and Canada being shut down. For those of us in the communities impacted we had to drive long distances to do our business or our normal day to day activities.
The bridge between Cornwall and the US is one of the major border crossings between the US and Canada with a brand new high tech and very expensive facility just having been built on the US side.
(Cars backed up on the bridge)
The issue is that the Canadian station lied right smack in Akwesasne; a tri-zoned reserve bordering Quebec, NY State, and Ontario.
At issue was a piece of land next to the current Canadian border station and the issue from the natives that they really didn’t want to see Canada Customs agents armed on their land; especially under conditions at the time.
There’s been a lot of spin and smoke during this past year. The bridge was reopened, but under harsh terms meant to break the resolve of the residents of Akwesasne who depending on which numbers you look at represent 70% of bridge traffic.
Right now those returning from the US or visiting from the US cannot legally stop on the Island without first crossing the bridge, paying the toll and saying howdy to Canada Customs staff. Even I myself was given an official warning. I had gone to the Island to cover a story and made the era of popping over to the US to shop before the interview. When I returned I was written up and entered into the computer. Apparently I had to go back up to the CBSA temporary station and pay the two bridge tolls again before returning for the interview.
It’s essentially a human rights issue. The Harper government has essentially been mum to the media and the public;. mostly to MCA and the people of Akwesasne too. First off they’ve insisted that CBSA negotiate any issues on behalf of Canada and CBSA officials haven’t really done much negotiating. The former minister in charge Peter Van Loan was too busy to even visit the site even though it’s less than a 90 minute drive from Ottawa.
He’s recently been replaced by Vic Toews who also has been too busy to visit our city.
Our MP, Guy Lauzon, who’s also head of caucus, has suggested that due to National Security he can’t really say much although in one interview he’s suggested that CBSA may take up quarters in the old US customs building. The only thing is that building had been torn down months before his statement which is odd as he lives in this riding although hasn’t been seen at the site much himself.
Now the quandary of an upcoming Federal election is upon us. Stephen Harper surely wouldn’t let his Caucus chair spin in the wind during an election and Mr. Harper will need every seat he can get.
My spies have reported that the CBSA have been in talks with the US about moving the border crossing to a shared use with the new US facility. The details of this proposal I can’t share at this time and it’s interesting. I personally can see it working in conjunction with the current temporary border station.
What I see happening more so though is a return to the old CBSA station on the island. The border officers will be armed, but from what I’m hearing will have undergone sensitivity training to better understand and perform with the residents of Akwesasne. I’m also hearing that there will possibly be some sort of native presence at the new facility.
The bottom line is it seems that it’s been some real political hard ball in this mess and the question for me is why? Could not the Harper government simply negotiated or had mediation as suggested by opposition critics and agreed to in principle by the MCA?
Our communities will heal. They generally get along quite well, but what about the businesses in Cornwall, Akwesasne, Massena, and the area? Bridge traffic has been reported down by at least 20%. That’s a lot of dollars lost to our communities just to prove some mysterious point or whip up votes for the Conservative Party by people that like a get tough on natives policy.
In the end has this helped Canada? Has this helped the local residents? To me in the end this isn’t about crime. It’s not about smuggling. It’s simply a really bad and expensive play to negotiate better terms for the new bridge and bright shiny Canada Customs facility.
Maybe Mr. Harper is right and really smart? Maybe that what the people of this riding and the area really want and support?
I’d like to not believe that. We all will have an opportunity to decide in the upcoming election what we think. As Mayor Bob Kilger shared with me
“the hardest thing for any politician is a conflict between their loyalty to their party or their constituents”
When I asked him which was of more importance he quickly told me that constituents always come first.
In the meanwhile MP Lauzon insists that the thousands of mailing emitting from his office are a good thing as he really needs to hear from citizens so we’re opening up our airwaves tomorrow Monday March 22, from 1PM.
You can call in toll free at 1.877.217.3932 where you can share your thoughts about our MP and his actions during the Bridge Crisis, as well as other issues and his impact on them.
Mr. Lauzon has been invited to either speak on the show or send in a statement, but still refuses to speak with myself or anyone on staff here at The Cornwall Free News. We just want you the public to know that we are happy to have him on our airwaves to explain any of these issues to you the public.
To listen live to the show from 1PM click HERE
You can also post your comments below.
(Comments and opinions of Editorials, Letters to the Editor, and comments from readers are purely their own and don’t necessarily reflect those of the owners of the Cornwall Free News, their staff, or sponsors.)
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