Feature - Border Crossing 

Security woes on world’s longest undefended border

Labour Day weekend in Canada and the U.S. is the last gasp of summer and the last chance to get away for many as a new school year begins.

It’s always a busy weekend for guards on both sides of the border, which stretches an incredible 6,416 kilometres between our two countries – not including the vast Alaskan frontier. Between St. Stephen in New Brunswick and the Peace Arch in British Columbia there are a total of 21 border crossings.

Crossing the border on Labour Day used to be a simple matter of showing your driver’s license and answering a few questions, if you were pulled over at all. Border guards were looking for drugs, illegal immigrants and customs cheats who didn’t pay their duties.

All of that changed forever on Sept. 11. We woke up to find the World Trade Centers gone, the Pentagon in flames, and another plane crashed in Pennsylvania because the passengers decided it was better to fight than to sit idly and allow their plane to be used as a missile against their fellow citizens.

We learned in the most tragic way that terrorists and their supporters lived among us, travelling unchallenged between cities and countries while setting their deadly plots into motion.

Both the American and Canadian governments vowed to never let our guards down again, and the first order of business was to increase security at the airports, ports and border. Increased security meant longer waits at the border.

The longest wait in Canada on this most recent Labour Day long weekend was at the Peace Arch crossing, where cars waited approximately 45 minutes between six and seven o’clock in the evening to get into Canada. On Sunday evening they waited up to an hour to get back into the U.S.

While that may seem like a long delay, it’s a drop in the bucket compared with line-ups experienced in the weeks after Sept. 11. Governments had promised more money and resources for customs services, but until the money came through and staff were hired and trained, the increased vigilance was in the hands of the same numbers of frontline border personnel.

Every traveller was asked to produce photo identification and proof of citizenship. They wanted to know where cars were going, where the people were staying and for how long. They opened every trunk and checked luggage.

As a result of this unprecedented scrutiny, both private and commercial traffic backed up on both sides of the border.

On the American Thanksgiving 10 weeks after Sept. 11 – opening day for Whistler-Blackcomb – skier numbers on the mountain were actually up 10 per cent over the previous season. Businesses that were expecting a decline as a result of the terrorist attacks, the collapse of Canada 3000, airline cutbacks, and the rapidly weakening economy let out a collective sigh of relief. After all that had happened, it seems people were still determined to come to Whistler.


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • Swarmed!

    How Whistler and other global hotspots are dealing with the impacts of overtourism
    • Nov 5, 2017
  • Getting Lost On A Bike

    Mountain biking? Nay. Touring? Not quite. Hiking? Heck no! Welcome to the world of bikepacking
    • Aug 12, 2018

Latest in Feature Story

  • Service interruption

    How workplace culture can help businesses withstand Whistler's staffing shortage
    • Nov 11, 2018
  • The second wave

    New research into psychedelics offers clues to curing addiction, depression, PTSD and...the fear of death
    • Nov 4, 2018
  • Halloween Stories

    • Oct 25, 2018
  • More »

More by Andrew Mitchell


B.C. voters will choose a voting system for provincial elections this fall /h3>

This fall, British Columbians will vote on what voting system we should use for provincial elections...more.

© 1994-2018 Pique Publishing Inc., Glacier Community Media

- Website powered by Foundation