That privilege will soon disappear, and already people are up in arms at having to get a passport:
Federal and provincial governments, along with Canadian business, have been furiously lobbying the United States to back down on legislation that would require all foreign visitors to produce a passport or secure document. It will also require U.S. citizens to carry those documents.
The biggest fear is that the number of Americans coming to Canada to shop, do business or attend conferences will drop drastically once the law comes into force. Only about 20 per cent of Americans have a passport.
"I cannot slow down the goods and services coming across, we depend on an enormous amount of product coming across our borders, so he ability to get it quickly is really key to our success," said Annette Verschuren, CEO of Home Depot Canada.
Officials say a "secure" document would have security features that fall somewhere between a drivers license and a passport. The requirement is scheduled to come into effect for sea and air travellers by the end of this year, and by the end of 2007 for land crossings.
Getting a passport or similar secure document renewed every five years is little different than getting one's driver's licence or health card renewed, and about the same amount of hassle too.
Yet people on both sides of the border won't want to take out another piece of paper, especially if they can't see the need of it for travelling across the Canada-U.S. border.
Americans might be more resentful towards being forced to carry identity documents if they don't really have to--"Your papers, please!" may fall sweetly upon a European or Canadian ear, but grates on Americans brought up to be mistrustful of overarching government interference.
They may be even more resentful that this proposal is being made, seemingly to punish legitimate business concerns and travellers, at the same time that far worse troubles with Mexican illegal immigrants, inspired by radicals calling for the secession of the American Southwest as an independent Hispanic state or union with Mexico , are barely being dealt with.
And Canadians who demand that Canada enforce its sovereignty by hectoring the United States, will be screaming bloody blue murder that they can't just zip down for a shopping trip or weekend getaway without their passports like they used to.
Requiring passports to cross the border is a necessary part of reinforcing border security, but for both countries, it is not the main border security problem they need to focus on.
America's inability to keep Mexico from using illegal immigration as a safety valve against internal revolution, and the subsequent rise of a Hispanic Palestine in the Southwest, will be far greater problems in the long run.
And Canada's inability to break from the belief that the rest of the world loves us as much as we love ourselves, and thus would never do harm to us, will have tragic consequences someday.
Source: CJAD 800