Continental collateral

Welcome to North America. That may become the new greeting at both American and Canadian sea- and airports. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama agreed on Wednesday to beef up the single border encircling both countries.

Welcome to North America.

That may become the new greeting at both American and Canadian seaports and airports.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama agreed on Wednesday to beef up the single border encircling both countries, while reversing some of the security put inside the continent after 9-11.

The changes aim to block criminals and terrorists at the continent’s perimeter while shortening waits at the Canada-U.S. border.

Standards and regulations for main trading industries, like the auto sector, agriculture and health-care products, will become more compatible – if not exactly the same.

There will also be a single, electronic “window” for companies to give governments all the information they need to clear cargo.

Most security and intelligence work will be a joint effort, including a new system to track when people enter and exit each country.

And both nations will work together to improve and share border technology, infrastructure and information.

“Billions of dollars worth of goods and hundreds of thousands of people cross our shared border every day,” said Harper in Wednesday’s release. “Together, these agreements represent the most significant step forward in Canada-U.S. co-operation since the North American Free Trade Agreement.”

Buckwheat Donahue remembers when NAFTA was signed.

Governments promised it would be easier for goods and people to pass between the two countries, but for regular people, it didn’t really do that much, the Skagwegian said, noting that duties, taxes and restrictions continue to hold back shopping trips in Yukon.

And the Alaskan port town’s tourism director isn’t quite convinced this new agreement will do much for regular folk either.

“I think they should’ve paid just a little bit more attention to the common person,” said Donahue. “It doesn’t seem to be addressed too much. There were vague commitments to improving the process but nothing was expressly defined, like it was for the commercial traffic.”

One thing that will affect everyday travellers is the promise to make flying between the two countries a little bit easier by cutting out duplicate baggage screening.

“Finally,” said Donahue. Flying through Vancouver and Whitehorse is a common travel route for Alaskans. “What a pain in the butt reclaiming my bags has been.

“I think it’s finally acknowledging and showing a little bit more respect for the Canadians and their ability to conduct business.”

But there has been very little, if any, official discussion focused on the Yukon-Alaska border.

Pretty much all of the agreement’s propaganda discusses the 49th Parallel.

“They kinda forgot,” said Donahue, laughing.

And perhaps that absentmindedness is justified, considering the bulk of the largest bilateral trade relationship in the world passes across the countries’ horizontal border, to the tune of approximately $1.2 million per minute.

But here in the North, the countries’ vertical border may be getting busier.

Skagway has put in its bid to become the port of preference for developing mines in the territory, said Donahue.

Especially considering the industry’s connections with China, an easier border crossing between Yukon and Alaska could be the perfect little push needed to finalize the arrangement.

“It could mean 40 to 50 more trucks a day, adding to the existing traffic flow,” said Donahue. “It’s a trade-off. It could mean 25-30 jobs here in Skagway – which is huge for us. But it could mean a little bit more inconvenience on the highway.”

Quicker crossings from Skagway to Canada would be welcome, said Donahue.

“One of our problems with the border, on the U.S. side, is that sometimes it just takes so friggin’ long,” he said. “There are times when it appears that the border is simply understaffed and there might be 10 to 15 cars in front of you and it will take a half an hour to an hour to get in. And that’s way too long.”

Easier flow between Yukon and Alaska could mean more northern relationships will flourish, as opposed to the more geographically challenging, national ones.

It’s a hope, said Donahue.

“We could use this to our advantage to promote trade between the Yukon, Skagway and Haines,” he said. “Let’s do it! We live here in the North for a reason. And I would sure love to see Skagway as a thriving community on a year-round basis, not just for five months out of the year. If this agreement is going to help foster more of that – you betchya, babyshakes!”

A year ago, when leaks about Obama and Harper’s discussions on this deal were released in Ottawa, the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon welcomed the “potential European-style security perimeter in North America.”

Between 75 and 80 per cent of the Yukon’s annual visitors come from the U.S. said Krista Prochazka, executive director of the association.

“TIA Yukon supports, in principle, efforts that balance security with efficient border crossings for our visitors,” she said.

And on the other side of the vertical line, Donahue is happy to see any intentions of better co-operation.

“A lot of it is up to the individual at the border,” he said. “Let’s just hope that the folks on the U.S. side of the border take the new tasks to heart.”

Pilot projects, testing out some of the new ideas in the agreement, are expected to start in April 2012.

Both Obama and Harper have committed to annual reports on what is working, and what is not.

Donahue is also willing to report back in a year’s time.

“Call me back in a year,” said Donahue. “Then let’s review what they said, what they’re going to do and what the reality of the situation is.

“Hope springs eternal, that’s all I can say,” he said. “I can’t say that it will help, or that it will detract. But it can’t hurt – can it?”

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Are they coming?

One of COVID-19’s big economic questions is whether it will prompt a… Continue reading

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell, along with Yukon health and education delegates, announce a new medical research initiative via a Zoom conference on Jan. 21. (Screen shot)
New medical research unit at Yukon University launched

The SPOR SUPPORT Unit will implement patient-first research practices

Yukon First Nation Education Directorate members Bill Bennett, community engagement coordinator and Mobile Therapeutic Unit team lead, left, and Katherine Alexander, director of policy and analytics, speak to the News about the Mobile Therapeutic Unit that will provide education and health support to students in the communities. (
Mobile Therapeutic Unit will bring education, health support to Indigenous rural students

The mobile unit will begin travelling to communities in the coming weeks

Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley, speak during a live stream in Whitehorse on January 20, about the new swish and gargle COVID-19 tests. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Swish and spit COVID-19 test now available in Yukon

Vaccination efforts continue in Whitehorse and smaller communities in the territory

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

A file photo of grizzly bear along the highway outside Dawson City. Yukon conservation officers euthanized a grizzly bear Jan. 15 that was originally sighted near Braeburn. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file)
Male grizzly euthanized near Braeburn

Yukon conservation officers have euthanized a grizzly bear that was originally sighted… Continue reading

Most Read