The Canadian Trucking Alliance will appeal to federal Citizenship and Immigration Minister Lucienne Robillard to step up enforcement of immigration rules against American truck drivers operating in Canada.
"In the interest of fairness, we want Canada to reciprocate the level of enforcement attention the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service is giving to Canadian drivers running in the U.S.," said Massimo Bergamini, CTA vice president, government and public affairs.
Bergamini said a letter outlining the CTA's concerns would be sent to Robillard.
Earlier this month, CTA senior vice-president Graham Cooper complained that some of his association's 2,200 carrier members have encountered difficulties at the border ranging from fines and minor enforcement hassles to the seizure of vehicles. He said the CTA was compiling reports from carriers who felt their drivers had been treated unfairly by INS officials.
Cooper noted that recent policy changes to harmonize Canadian and U.S. rules on equipment cabotage (point-to-point domestic movements of foreign-based trucks and trailers) have muddled how some INS officials are supposed to interpret immigration policy. For example, drivers who move empty Canadian equipment while in the U.S. -- an allowable move under cabotage policy -- may be seen as being "local labor for hire," which violates American immigration rules.
The changes to policy on equipment moves are not intended to affect immigration policy.
Bergamini said he believes the crackdown on Canadian drivers is a rebound effect of U.S. policy toward Mexico. "I think we're the victims of an enforcement psychosis," he said. "The INS looks at what comes across from Mexico with a great deal of scrutiny, and there's a tendency to want to apply the same standards to Canadian drivers. That's their policy, so be it. But Canada needs to apply a comparable level of enforcement toward American drivers in order to keep the playing field level. The imbalance amounts to an unfair trade practice."
Cooper added that many of the problems with immigration enforcement have occurred at the Coutts-Sweetgrass crossing, the principle route across the Alberta-Montana border. Farmers in Montana and surrounding states believe that lower-priced Canadian agricultural goods coming into the U.S. constitute unfair trade. There were several demonstrations last summer at the border, and increased inspections of Canadian trucks in these states. Montana protesters plan another demonstration next month.