Canada issues U.S. travel warning
From Elise Labott
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Canada issued a travel advisory this week urging Canadian citizens born in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Syria to consider avoiding travel to the United States.
The advisory, released by the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday, was in response to U.S. legislation passed after the September 11 attacks authorizing the Immigration and Naturalization Service to monitor the entry and exit of citizens from those countries.
Such monitoring allows those individuals to be photographed and fingerprinted.
Canada considers the regulations "discriminatory" and "unfriendly," a Canadian official told CNN.
The government of Canada warned "Canadians who were born in the above countries or who may be citizens of these countries to consider carefully whether they should attempt to enter the United States for any reason, including transit to or from third countries," the advisory said.
It also warned Canadians that the increased activity may lead to delays at U.S. immigration checkpoints.
An amendment to the United States National Security Entry Exit Registration System, or NSEERS, adds Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen as countries whose citizens could "attract special attention," the advisory warns.
A spokesman for the Canadian Foreign Ministry told CNN his government feels the law is "discriminatory"
"These people should not be singled out by their country of birth," said spokesman Reynald Foiron in a telephone interview Wednesday.
"If the United States doesn't have a reasonable doubt about someone's activities, country of birth should not be taken into account."
The measure is "contrary to American and Canadian principles" as well as against Canadian laws governing nondiscrimination," Foiron said. "It chastises the rights of freedom."
Foiron said Canada and the United States have enjoyed excellent security cooperation, which makes the regulations unnecessary.
"Why would having this help?" Foiron said. "If the United States has a specific case, they can bring it to our attention within the normal channels between our security agencies.
"We don't need this blanket measure. It's unfriendly."
The State Department said it was not surprised that Canada advised its citizens on how they could be affected
"We have plenty of warnings for American citizens around the world, and it's just advice to people to tell them what to expect," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher. "And governments do that because they have an obligation to their own citizens."
Canadian Foreign Minister Bill Graham made a strong appeal to Secretary of State Colin Powell regarding the issue during a meeting last month in the margins of the U.N. General Assembly, Foiron said.
Graham voiced concern that some Canadian citizens would be affected by the legislation. He has argued that Canadian citizens be exempted.
Last month a man with joint Canadian-Syrian citizenship was detained by U.S. authorities in New York while changing planes at John F. Kennedy Airport and was deported to Syria. Canada protested on the grounds the man should have been sent back to Canada.
Foiron said Powell indicated there could be "some flexibility" relating to the citizens from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, because those countries were added in an executive order.
But regulations on citizens from countries covered by NSEERS would have to be changed by Congress.
Boucher agreed the United States and Canada had good cooperation and were looking at "different kinds of new agreements that can be done."
"It's a big border and bad guys try to come across," Boucher said. "The question is what we, in cooperation with the Canadian government, can do to make both our countries safer."