Canadians living on isolated island say the U.S. border patrol is opening their mail
A Canada Post employee drives a mail truck through downtown Halifax on July 6, 2016. (Darren Calabrese / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
TORONTO -- Residents of a New Brunswick island community which is only accessible by a bridge connected to the mainland U.S., have reported that U.S. border officials have been opening and searching their packages and private mail.
Islanders living in Campobello, N.B., say their mail, which arrives by a bonded Canada Post truck that passes through Maine before re-entering Canada, has been opened and inspected by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol for months.
Conservative MP John Williamson told CTVNews. ca in a telephone interview Tuesday that the mail searches have “been ongoing now for almost a year…the privacy rights of the residents on Campobello should be of top concern.”
“It’s not even a miscellaneous delivery truck, it’s a Canada Post vehicle with a bonded driver and the mail is being molested by U.S. authorities,” Williamson said. “Canada Post is a well-run, well-regarded institution … there has to be some acknowledgement of that on the U.S. side.”
Williamson said that “any piece of mail, any package” is being opened, whether it’s a “letter from a loved one” or private documents from a physician, and that information like that should be “protected as the first priority when it comes to safeguarding people’s privacy.”
In an emailed statement to CTVNews.ca, Canada Post said that it was “proud to serve the residents of Campobello Island” and while there are “challenges” associated with the transport route, “it is the only available and safe option beyond seasonal ferry service.”
“U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has the right to stop and search any vehicle at their discretion and detain or seize any item which they deem to be inadmissible. We respect their rights and legal responsibilities and have been working with our CBP counterparts to help resolve any concerns and improve service,” the statement said.
But Williamson said that this issue “presses on” Canada’s sovereignty, and is calling for “calmer heads” to prevail.
“We [Canada and the U.S.] work together on NORAD, we have an integrated energy market, this is an outlier and could be solved with a little bit of goodwill,” he said.
Cannabis concerns? U.S. officials won't say
A spokesperson for the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) said in an emailed statement to CTVNews.ca that they “facilitate lawful trade and travel while also safeguarding the American people from dangerous goods and people.”
“CBP Officers possess broad search authority to ensure the safety and admissibility of all goods entering the United States,” the statement continues. “This includes the ability to inspect and search all persons, baggage, and merchandise arriving in – or transiting through – the United States.”
Williamson raised the question of whether the rise in mail searches coincided with the legalization of cannabis in Canada last year, but said it was a “suspicion” and he did not know for certain.
CBP declined to answer whether or not their searches were related to cannabis, replying with their above statement.
Cannabis New Brunswick told CTVNews.ca in an emailed statement that they have “temporarily suspended shipments” to the Campobello Island after it came to their attention that “some packages have been opened at the border,” but are hoping to resume service as quickly as possible.
Williamson said he has raised this issue with the minister of foreign affairs and in Parliament, and “will do so again in the new year.”
He also plans to reach out to the U.S. law enforcement officials personally to try and resolve the issue.