Published September 11, 2012 | 11:21 am
Toronto: The world breathed a sigh of relief after President Barack Obama announced the demise of Osama bin Laden in a stunning Special Forces operation. But for Punjabi drivers especially Sikhs crossing the border to U.S., the relief was short lived as they are being allegedly pulled for extra security checkups and are being harassed due to the 9/11 anniversary.
Canadian businesses rely on trade with their American counterparts and the trucking industry is the back bone of this trade. As the trucking industry in Toronto and Vancouver is largely dominated by Punjabis, the nightmare represented by bin Laden continues for them , while crossing the border.
A Sikh driver Gurmail Singh, with GHL trucking company alleged that he was pulled over by U.S. border authorities for special security check up during every trip he made to US during the last couple of weeks, while all other white drivers were allowed to pass. He alleged that he was made to sit at the border without giving any reasons and was harassed by the authorities with vague questions and hateful remarks. Gurmail alleged that he wasn’t even allowed to drink water and eat something at the waiting room, while his truck was taken away for security check.
Other Punjabi, especially Sikh drivers have the same story to tell and many of them informed that they have stopped going to US routes , till the 9/11 anniversary is over.
A transporter Sarabjeet Brar told that they are not booking loads to U.S. due to 9/11 anniversary as many of their loads were getting cancelled or they were facing penalties due to the harassment meted out to their drivers and the delays caused by pulling over of Sikh drivers at the border crossings.
Despite Bin Laden’s death, there is little chance that the increased security measures and thickening of the Canada-U.S. border that was enacted following the 9/11 attacks is going to end. The hardships for Canadian businesses resulting from the border thickening have worsened since 9/11.
U.S.-bound exports, which previously accounted for more than 80 per cent of all Canadian exports, have fallen below 70 per cent. Part of this shortfall is attributable to economic circumstances , however a significant part of the decline in Canada’s U.S.-bound exports is a result of logistical challenges characteristic of the post-9/11 border.
The negative impact of post- 9/11 security arrangements has also taken a serious toll on the flow of tourists crossing our 5,500-kilometer shared border.
Not only the trade but tourism is also suffering as according to a Canadian Tourism Commission report, the number of Americans taking leisure visits to Canada has fallen steadily, from about 18 million since 2001.
Prior to the September 11 terrorist attacks, the term “border security” was rarely used. Today, however, it is both a fundamental goal of US domestic security and the defining paradigm for border operations.
It may be mentioned, despite the border security buildups and $100 billion spent along the southwestern border, no terrorists or terrorist weapons have been seized instead of the harassment to the visitors and truckers going to US.