HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Truth Be Told
Pubdate: Sun, 21 Jul 2002
Source: Toronto Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2002, Canoe Limited Partnership.
Author: Mark Bonokoski


The justice minister has admitted smoking dope - will U.S. bar him?

If there is equality under the law, and there is no difference between a 
teenaged helper in an old folks' home and one of Prime Minister Jean 
Chretien's top cabinet ministers, then Justice Minister Martin Cauchon has 
some work cut out for him before he next visits the United States.

Or else he could lie.

He could lie and hope the attending U.S. customs official had not read last 
week's newspaper reports in which he cavalierly admitted to smoking dope 
during his youth -- all in the context of Canada toying with the idea of 
decriminalizing marijuana possession.

Trouble is, 19-year-old Amy Harris didn't lie.

As as result, the young community college student from Lethbridge, Alta. -- 
who works part-time serving meals to the elderly residents at the Alberta 
Rose Lodge -- is forever barred from entering the United States of America 
unless she does a few things to appease the U.S. justice department.

Why? Because she confessed to having once smoked the evil weed -- just as 
Justice Minister Martin Cauchon has admitted, and Ontario Premier Ernie 
Eves, and even former U.S. president Bill Clinton, although he wants us to 
believe he never inhaled.

The only difference, of course, is that Cauchon and Eves, as Canadian 
citizens, were not being stared down by a U.S. border guard and then told 
to fill out a form in which they had to swear to tell the truth, the whole 
truth and nothing but the truth.

"Have you ever used an illegal substance?" one of the questions on that 
form asks.

How would Justice Minister Cauchon answer that one? Would he be as honest 
as Amy Harris?

Amy's story, which was brought to my attention through an e-mail from Amy 
herself, began a few weeks ago when she and her two college roommates made 
the hour's drive from Lethbridge to Sweetgrass, Montana -- how's that for 
irony?-- to buy some discount cigarettes.

Canine Alarm Bells

Since 9/11, even the crossing at Sweetgrass has had its security beefed up, 
and when the sniffer dog stuck its nose inside their car, it smelled 
something that set its canine alarm bells ringing.

Despite the fact the border guards themselves smelled nothing, the car was 
nonetheless searched from stem to stern, as were the three teens, but 
nothing illicit was found. Nevertheless, they were turned back.

What the dog had apparently smelled was the lingering scent of 
marijuana-past which, Amy suspects, might have come from one of her 
roommate's clothing.

When Amy told her mother what happened, even she thought something might 
have been left out of the scenario. But no.

"I called the border crossing myself," her mother said. "And I was assured 
the kids had absolutely nothing on them and that there were absolutely no 
charges laid. Yet my daughter gets banned.

"What if Canada banned every American who admitted to having driven under 
the influence at one time or another in their life, despite never having 
been convicted or even charged? How would they feel?"

So, just for admitting that she had once smoked a joint or two, here's what 
Amy Harris has to do to hopefully get this lifetime ban lifted.

Red Tape

First she must apply to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service for 
"advanced permission" to enter the United States, and submit cheque or 
money order in the amount of $195 US, none of which is refundable even if 
entry is refused.

As well as filing that document, she must complete Form G-325A, a detailed 
biography of her life, and then present herself to a U.S. immigration 
inspector in Sweetgrass (or at the international airports in Calgary or 
Edmonton) to have her fingerprints taken and recorded. The fee: $50 US.

And, on top of that, she must obtain a certified copy of her criminal 
record from the RCMP.

Amy Harris has no criminal record. In fact, she has never been charged with 
anything. She's just a college kid who, to pay for her education, works at 
an old folks' home and occasionally travels with her friends to Sweetgrass, 
Mont., to buy cheap smokes.

That, and being too honest for her own good.

"When I saw the part in which I had to swear to God to tell the truth, the 
whole truth, and nothing but the truth, I had no choice but to do just 
that," she said.

"Unlike everything I've learned before, maybe honesty isn't the best policy 
after all."
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