Canadians say they’re getting denied entry at the U.S. border for wanting to protest Donald Trump
There’s a growing chorus of Canadians claiming they have been detained and turned away at the U.S. border for trying to attend the presidential inauguration and the Women’s March on Washington.
Sasha Dyck, a 34-year-old from Montreal, told reporters yesterday that he and five other Canadians and two French nationals were denied entry at the St. Bernard de Lacolle border crossing into New York on Friday after explaining their protest plans to the American border guards.
He claims the group was told to go to secondary screening where they spent hours being searched, fingerprinted, and were told to unlock their cell phones for inspection.
“I hope it doesn’t represent a closing down or a firming up of the border, or of mentalities south of the border,” said Dyck, who added that he had no trouble getting through the border for Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009.
Dyck, who also holds American citizenship but didn’t have that passport, said the border officials did not provide a reason for denying the group entry, something they don’t usually do anyway, as they have total discretion over who they deny or let in.
Thousands of other Canadians traveling by buses and planes did, however, successfully make it through to join the hundreds of thousands in Washington rallying for women’s rights.
CBC also heard from two other Montrealers who say they were also denied entry at the St. Bernard de Lacolle checkpoint on Thursday after a border guard asked what they were up to. “The first thing he asked us point blank is, ‘Are you anti- or pro-Trump?’” McGill University student Joseph Decunha told the news outlet.
“According to the agent, my traveling to the United States for the purpose of protesting didn’t constitute a valid reason to cross,” he continued. “It’s concerning to see that at a border crossing you’re being screened for what your political beliefs are.”
Also on Thursday, U.K. national Joe Kroese said he and a group of three American and Canadian friends were also detained at the same crossing after telling the guard they had tentative plans to attend the Women’s March. Kroese, 23, told the Guardian on Saturday the border guard said they weren’t allowed through because the march was a “potentially violent rally.”
A couple from Sudbury, Ontario told the CBC they were allowed through the Niagara Falls border on Thursday, but only after being subjected to hours of questioning about their motives. “We were told essentially that, as Canadians, we had no right to go and participate in this march,” said Amber Gazdic. “[They said] it’s none of our business, and Canada has its own problems we should address.”
A spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not immediately respond to a request for comment from VICE News, but has released statements saying they cannot comment on specific cases for privacy reasons, and that visitors to the U.S. must always “state the true purpose of your travel.”
In a statement to Reuters, a spokesman for Canada’s Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said that U.S. authorities are entitled to search the cell phones of Canadians trying to cross the border.
“When entering another country, including Canada, it has always been the case that goods accompanying a traveler may be searched to verify admissibility,” said Scott Bardsley, the minister’s press secretary. “Every country is sovereign and able to make its own rules to admit people and goods to manage its immigration framework, health and safety.”
It’s unclear what, if any, new Trump administration policies will impact relations with Canada. He has vowed to overhaul major trade agreements among the U.S., Canada and Mexico. His inauguration speech on Friday was isolationist in tone and promised to put “America first.”