Editorial: Don’t be afraid of Americans

The sentiment behind the late David Bowie’s 1997 song, “I’m Afraid of Americans,” has taken on a new dimension due to coronavirus fears, with sightings of U.S. licence plates triggering alarm on Canadian roads.

On the Sunshine Coast, RCMP confirmed this week that they are receiving tips from concerned residents and are investigating them.

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“We try to determine the person’s status in Canada, such as a dual citizen returning home, or Canadian resident who couldn’t change the plate as quickly as normal due to COVID business closures,” Const. Karen Whitby told us.

“So far each complaint we have received and investigated has had an explanation verified through documentation or consultation with other agencies.”

Fortunately, the detachment has not received any complaints from the other side – of drivers feeling harassed – despite at least one case we’ve heard of involving a local man tailing a vehicle back to its hideout, a deceptively innocent B&B.

Public health officials have been trying to allay people’s fears, stressing the thoroughness of border restrictions, including the mandated 14-day quarantine period for all international travellers in all modes of entry.

Boaters also remain prohibited from crossing the border for recreation or tourism, and they are being given no leeway when it comes to adhering to the rules, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) said in an email this week.

“All travellers entering Canada, including foreign national boaters who drop anchor in Canadian waters, must report to the CBSA,” the agency said. “Failing to report is a serious offence, subject to potential penalty, seizure action, loss of trusted traveller program membership, and prosecution under the Customs Act or Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.”

For all travellers, failure to comply with the current border restrictions is an offence under the Quarantine Act and could lead to significant penalties – up to $750,000 in fines and/or imprisonment for up to six months.

Const. Whitby said the Sunshine Coast RCMP have received “clear guidance” on how to approach complaints, and are following “all policies to ensure the public is kept safe.”

The authorities are taking this issue very seriously and, by all indications, compliance is overwhelmingly the norm. While we should be circumspect in all situations, it doesn’t sound like there is much of a reason to be any more afraid of Americans than usual.

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