Windsor-West MP wants 'fair and equal' process to reunite cross-border families
Published Wednesday, June 3, 2020 11:40AM EDT Last Updated Wednesday, June 3, 2020 6:23PM EDT
Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada-USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
WINDSOR, ONT. -- Windsor-West NDP MP Brian Masse is asking for “a fair and equal process” to reunite cross-border families during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Canada-U.S. border has been closed to non-essential travel since mid-March, leaving some families apart for months. The restrictions were extended until at least June 21.
”We have a lot of families being broken apart in regards to the border process being changed during COVID-19," Masse said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday the federal government is looking into possible tweaks to the current border restrictions that could allow immediate families to reunite.
Masse said the “status quo” of people trying their luck at the border with each case left to the discretion of the officer is not fair or accountable.
"So we want to support our officers and we want to have support direction, and more importantly we want to make sure it’s safe for the country and also the families with a good business plan that can reunite should be able to consider reuniting,” he said.
Masse is the NDP Innovation, Science, Economic Development and Auto Critic. On Tuesday, he wrote to the deputy prime minister and the minister of public safety. He says he’s proposing a process to reunite families while adhering to public health and safety protection.
“I said enough is enough. Let’s consolidate the process. Make it accountable, make it transparent, and allow the communities to be able to prepare as well if there’s any potential changes,” Masse said.
“And families if you are going to be actually looking at reunification will have to put together a proper plan to respect local health units, health community environments to stop the spread and not have any additional risk and more importantly rejoin themselves together in a healthy way,” he said.
Here is Masse's letter:
“Dear Minister Freeland and Minister Blair,
I am writing you today regarding the US-Canada border and the processes and procedures to possibly allow for the reunification of families who have been separated during this public health crisis due to the COVID 19 Pandemic.
My riding of Windsor West hosts four border crossings including the Ambassador Bridge, the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel, the freight railway tunnel and the Detroit-Windsor Truck Ferry. These facilities provide access to the United States market on a 24/7 basis reaching over $1 billion a day approximating 40 percent of the trade between our two countries. Additionally, thousands of people cross the border daily during the pandemic who work Michigan as healthcare workers and in essential services such as power systems, railways, truck transport, ferries, and air crews.
As the situation has evolved on the border during this emergency, I have been in communication with Prime Minister’s office on different issues such as returning Canadians crossing the land border between Windsor and Detroit in March, protections and supports for healthcare and other essential workers and additional resources for Canadian Border Services. The letters were dated March 17, March 27, and April 8.
The recent proclamations from the federal government for Canadians to able to be reunited with their families without any details or time lines has created concerns and questions. Contradictory messages have left people confused, frustrated and unsure of what to do.
Due to the increasing number of inconsistencies of the present restrictions to reunify Canadians and their families I am requesting that you provide an avenue for an application for exemption or appeal from the current practices as leaving each CBSA officer to make a subjective decision is not a robust or fair policy. Either each case be reviewed by the Minister’s office and a determination made with an explanation of the decision detailed or another comprehensive approach be developed as complications due to the COVID 19 pandemic may persist along with border restrictions. This would ensure there is a consistency and equality of treatment of each case based on a standard set of criteria by the same decision-making process to provide public confidence in its fairness.
Additionally, as the border restrictions are in place until June 21 questions about the eventual re-opening are increasing in frequency and volume, I am requesting disclosure to the public of the details of the plan on re-opening the land border crossings. This should be done in advance of the date of when the removal of restrictions is announced to allow for proper preparations to take place and a wide spread and comprehensive communications campaign is in place to inform the public and our CBSA frontline officers.
I understand that this is a challenging and complex situation but public disclosure and anticipating and preparing for outlying possibilities is the best reassurance and will strengthen public trust and confidence. Regular updates and the release of the plan long before it is to be in effect would meet these expectations.
This public health emergency requires all Canadians, people, businesses, civil society and all levels of government to work together and engaging in endeavours to make the situation less burdensome on all of us. It is an opportunity to demonstrate unity and perseverance in the face of this crisis.
I appreciate your time and attention to this request. I look forward to your response.
Brian Masse MP