Annoying Americans think Canada owes them right of entry

Code Pink co-founder barred from entering Canada

SAN FRANCISCO – Here in the United States, Canada has long had a reputation as a shelter for American political protesters. But in this post 9-1-1 world, with a member of the Conservative Party as Canada’s prime minister, Canada has apparently had a change of heart, says the disgruntled Bay Area co-founder of CODEPINK, a national organization opposed to the war in Iraq.

Medea Benjamin says she was headed to Toronto to attend a peace conference, along with ret. U.S. Army Col. Ann Wright (retired). They were stopped at the Canadian port of entry at Niagara Falls, NY.

— Bill Brand, “Local activist barred from Canada“.  Inside Bay Area, October 22nd, 2007.

Yes, clearly it’s all Stephen Harper’s fault.  Stephen Harper rules by omniscience and divine right.  He personally approves or denies all civilian border crossings.  They are not governed by the laws of this country or international treaties governing border customs.  It’s all up to Fickle Steve.

“We were called aside for secondary screening and when they came back, they had printed out our records from this file called, a NCIC (U.S. National Crime Information Center) data base. In my case there were three arrests, one for protesting outside the White House, one for a protest in Congress and one in New York City when we tried to deliver petitions from ‘women saying no to war’ to the United Nations.”

Ah, so Ms. Benjamin and Col. (Ret.) Wright have arrests and summary convictions, enough to be present in NCIC.  Given that Code Pink’s usual modus operandi is to show up, make a fuss, then refuse to leave, my bet is for squatting or trespassing.  Maybe they should have checked with their consular services first.  Here’s the relevant section on “special circumstances” for Americans entering Canada:


Anyone with a criminal record (including a drunk driving conviction) may be excluded from Canada. A waiver of exclusion may be issued but several weeks are required and a processing fee must be paid. Contact the Canadian Embassy or a Canadian Consulate in the U.S. or use the link below for more information.

The “link below” referred to is actually a slightly stale-dated link to a page appropriately titled “Rehabilitation for Persons Who are Inadmissible to Canada Because of Past Criminal Activity“.  Go figure.  And the relevant section of that page is here:

A. Convictions/Offences outside Canada

If you were convicted of or committed a criminal offence outside Canada, you may overcome this criminal inadmissibility

  • by applying for rehabilitation, or
  • you may be deemed to have been rehabilitated if at least ten years have passed since you completed the sentence imposed upon you, or since you committed the offence, if the offence is one that would, in Canada, be an indictable offence punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of less than ten years.

If the offence is one that would, in Canada, be prosecuted summarily and if you were convicted for two (2) or more such offences, that period is at least five (5) years after the sentences imposed were served or to be served.

I believe the line about multiple summary offences is the relevant one.  I don’t know exactly when Ms. Benjamin racked up these arrests but a brief look at Code Pink‘s Wikipedia page may provide some insight.  Members have been to Congress twice this year, and I believe the abortive UN attempt happened last winter.  So it seems that five years from 2007 is still quite a ways away.

Nonetheless, Ms. Benjamin and Ms. Wright are testing the mettle of our Canada Border Services Agency, aided and abetted by certain Canadian MPs (hello, Alexa!).

To test Canada’s resolve, Benjamin plans to fly to Ottawa on Thursday to speak at the invitation of several members of the Canadian parliament.

“This is going to be a real challenge,” Benjamin said. “We’re flying from Washington, D.C. to Ottawa and we may or may not be allowed to enter the country.”

But the pressure is on. Benjamin said her chief sponsor, Alexa McDonough, head of the liberal New Democratic Party and a member of Parliament from Nova Scotia, intends to ask Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper about the country’s policy on admitting Benjamin and other activists with arrests for protests. Benjamin says she’s outraged.

“We are appealing to Canadians not to treat peaceful activists like common criminals. I travel all over the world on a regular basis and Canada is the first country to use the NCIC to keep out people like us,” Benjamin said.

She adds she has traveled to Canada many times and has never before been refused entry.

I had no idea Alexa McDonough is the leader of the New Democratic Party.  I imagine Jack Layton is very much surprised.

But in all seriousness, be outraged all you want.  Canada does not owe Ms. Benjamin, nor any other criminally-convicted foreign national, right of entry.  Just because she has never been refused entry previously doesn’t mean she”ll always enjoy that privilege (and it is, indeed, a privilege for foreign nationals to enter a sovereign country).  I jaywalk twice a day and have never been cited for it, but that hardly means that I never will be.

And, I hate to break it to Ms. Benjamin and her cohorts, but having an arrest record plus multiple summary offence convictions does kind of place one in the realm of “common criminal”.  Justice does not bear its sword in vain; one’s actions have consequences—a fact that Ms. Benjamin, Ms. Wright and thousands of other petty criminals seem incapable of grasping.  I have been to political protests on either side of the spectrum and never once been arrested.  I’ve also been on the other side of the fence—the one being protested.  It’s not hard to avoid being arrested in either case, unless one becomes so emotionally involved that they simply can’t operate with any reason.  And I do think that is what’s going on here.

Back in the early ’90s, around the time of the First Gulf War, I was downtown near the intersection of Yonge and Gould, wearing the standard-issue Mk II combat dress.  As I was crossing the intersection northbound, a vertically-challenged (but horizontally enormous) woman started losing her shit, screaming at me.  I glanced back to see what she was going on about, and it became apparent that she was squawking about the Gulf War, warring for oil, soldiers as baby-killers, and the rest of the totalitarian antiwar liturgy.

Keep in mind I’m a total stranger to her, but she’s standing at the southeast corner of Yonge & Gould foaming away at me as if I had personally slain a close relative.  I stood there for a few minutes, watching her get red-faced and spittle-flecked, losing her mind on the street corner.  She very clearly had no idea of what Canada’s involvement in the Gulf War really amounted to.  In brief, it was a naval task group, an air task group, airfield security, and a field hospital.  Not exactly the jungle-wading, hooch-searching, oil-thieving, baby-killing stuff I was being accused of.

But this is the sort of nonsense that runs though certain minds.  The actual facts of our military deployment to the Gulf mattered a lot less than somebody’s delusional idea of what it meant to be anti-war.  And this is the same sort of mindset that we’re seeing in Code Pink’s case — knowledge of the law (and customs restrictions) matter a whole lot less than being able to grandstand as a hard-done-by victim of an evil conservative leader.

UPDATE:  Before anyone starts spouting nonsense about Harper’s Canada, let me just remind you that the Smart Border Action Plan has been in place since December, 2001 and it was signed by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and Deputy Prime Minister Tom Manley.  Specific aspects of the Smart Border plan such as immigration database sharing and joint enforcement coordination have been underway since 2002.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was sworn in on February 6th, 2006.

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3 Responses
  1. OMMAG says:

    Same BS from the Greenpeezers and PETA types…. annual seal hunt protesters think they’ve got a GOD given right to be a pain in the ass in our country. The do get away with lawbreaking every year and always seem to get back in the following season….. stay tuned it won’t be long now.

  2. Alan says:

    Harper put a red sock in which my white laundry the other day.

  3. Chris Taylor says:

    Shouldn’t you be wearing the orange and green ones, not the red ones? =)