The reduction of services to the Nelway border crossing may just be a rumour, but Salmo Mayor Ann Henderson is concerned about how the crossing would be policed if the changes did occur.
“We have Shambhala here,” said Henderson. “A lot of people are coming through that crossing and how are those cars being properly searched.”
Nelway was listed in a leaked document obtained by the CBC last week.
The document listed four options being considered by officials with Canada Border Services Agency and US Customs and Border protection for 52 different land crossings.
The options include sharing facilities, mirroring work hours, using a “remote-technology solution,” or closing the posts altogether.
Nelway has not been slated for closure but instead my have an unstaffed border post where people would speak to border guards through a camera.
“How would people claim their purchases as they drove through?” wondered Henderson. “If they’re expected to drive to another crossing, which could be a fair drive, that could have an impact on the Salmo economy.”
Henderson said that while the leaked document is just a rumour so far, when these things finally reach the local level they have often gone further than expected through higher levels of government.
“By the time it gets to us it’s the local government that suffers,” she said. “It’s just more downloading.”
In a press release from BC Southern Interior MP Alex Atamanenko on Friday he said that the reduction in services would effect locals by making it more difficult to enter or do business with the U.S.
“The Conservative government has been less than transparent in letting communities know about how and when the decisions to close border crossings were made,” said Atamanenko.
The government’s report and action plan Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness was released on December 6 and mentions establishing a Small and Remote Port Working Group to evaluate “a bi-national approach to operational alignment.”
“This action is yet another set-back to rural Canadian communities brought to them by this federal government. Hopefully this is not a final decision, and the minister will be open to discussing the repercussions of their secretive planning process,” said Atamanenko.
US Custom and Border Protection told the Star in an email that they are working to further bilateral coordination with Canada Border Service Agency.
“US Customs and Border Protection and Canada Border Service Agency have historically worked together on a broad range of cross-border issues to most recently include the Small Port Working Group,” said Custom and Border Protection public affairs officer Mike Milne.
“Discussions between this group are meant to further the bilateral coordination on future plans for ports of entry along the U.S.-Canada border including creating a joint plan for small and remote ports. The U.S. and Canada are continuing discussions and analysis of relevant information to make informed decisions with the goal of gaining efficiencies and protecting both countries safety and security while taking into consideration community impacts.”