Select Page 20021031/ts_nm/canada_usa_dc Upset Canada Issues Rare Caution on Travel to U.S. 2 hours, 3 minutes ago

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada, in a highly unusual travel warning, on Wednesday urged Canadian citizens born in countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia to think carefully before entering the United States, saying they could fall afoul of tough new U.S. anti-terrorism laws.

The Foreign Ministry said it issued the advisory after Washington stipulated that anyone born in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, or Syria needed to be photographed and fingerprinted on arrival in the United States.

This includes citizens of Canada, a country which is traditionally regarded as one of the closest allies of the United States.

“It’s not something we approve of and we’ve registered our strongest disapproval with the United States authorities,” Foreign Minister Bill Graham told reporters.

“We can’t tell the Americans what to do on their own territory. What we’re telling them is that we don’t accept this and we find it very troubling…I am certain that in due course common sense will prevail.” The Foreign Ministry advisory, posted on its Web site, is another indication of how ties between the two neighbors have soured in past months amid disputes over trade, policy toward Iraq and immigration policies.

Before the Sept. 11 suicide attacks, people from both countries crossed the shared 5,525 mile border with barely a thought. Security and identity checks have now been tightened considerably.

The U.S. rules, introduced on Sept. 11 this year, are designed to tighten security by authorizing the Immigration and Naturalization Service to track the arrival and departure of non-immigrants.

Ottawa’s travel warning follows the controversial deportation of a Canadian citizen by the United States to Syria, his birthplace, earlier this month.

The advisory also said Canadians born in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia or Yemen could attract special attention from U.S. authorities.

“In these circumstances, the (ministry) advises Canadians who were born in the above (eight) countries or who may be citizens of these countries to consider carefully whether they should attempt to enter the United States for any reason, including transit to or from third countries,” it said.

Graham said he had raised the issue last month with Secretary of State Colin Powell (news – web sites), who gave assurances that some kind of flexibility would be introduced for Canadian citizens.

“We’re expecting some news from the Americans. They have not brought in that flexibility,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Reynald Doiron.

In Washington, the State Department said the new rules were designed to make the United States safer.

“I think we are concerned that many, many countries in the world have had problems with terrorists,” spokesman Richard Boucher told a briefing.

He referred specifically to the case of Algerian-born Ahmed Ressam, who was arrested in December 1999 trying to enter the United States from Canada in a car packed with explosives. It later emerged that he had ignored a Canadian deportation order against him and even managed to obtain a Canadian passport.

“So, yes, it’s a big border and bad guys try to come across. I think that goes without saying. The question is what we, in cooperation with the Canadian government, can do to make both our countries safer,” said Boucher.

Last month, U.S. agents at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport arrested a Canadian they suspected of links to militant groups, finally expelling him to Syria on Oct. 8.

Mohamed Arar — who also holds a Syrian passport — was arrested as he was changing planes on his way back to Canada from Tunisia. He is in detention in Syria, where authorities are probing whether he has links to groups such as al Qaeda.

U.S. critics charge that Canada’s immigration system does not do enough to weed out militants who might want to launch attacks in the United States. Graham said he had stressed to U.S. officials that all immigrants had to go through tough security screening before coming to Canada.

“I have pointed out to them that both our countries are countries of immigration and that Canadian citizens have a right to be treated as Canadian citizens wherever they may be born,” he said.

Hussein Amery, president of the National Council on Canada-Arab Relations, said the U.S. rules were a clear case of racial profiling and urged Ottawa to toughen its stance.

“It certainly looks, smells and feels like racism…the Americans are certainly not treating Canadians as friends when they do this,” he added, referring to the Arar case.

Canada’s ties with the United States are already under strain over a protracted trade dispute about Canadian lumber exports, fresh tensions over wheat exports and Ottawa’s opposition to a unilateral U.S. attack on Iraq.