Letters to the Editor -- July 22, 2004

Published on Thu, Jul 22, 2004
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Letters to the Editor

The Editor:
Is it fair that an innocent girl is assaulted at the Peace Arch border crossing by a U.S. customs officer and told that she must do anything this particular officer says? Is this border security or is it sexual and physical harassment and assault aimed at young women? Do we as Canadians have any rights at U.S. border crossings? We must expose this to protect more young adults and Canadians alike that could be in serious danger if they don’t know the laws and their rights. If an innocent daughter with no criminal record, a decent job and a bright future can be verbally and physically assaulted, traumatized, fingerprinted and treated like a criminal right in front of her own mother, what is next?
My daughter and I have just returned from the U.S. border after planning to spend the day in Bellingham shopping. At the border, we handed our drivers licenses and birth certificates to the customs officer. He then asked where we were going, what we planned to do, if we knew anybody down there and when the last time was that I had been there. I said last week. He asked the same thing of my daughter, Suzanne, who replied the same. He then asked what other identification my daughter had with her. He then demanded her whole wallet.
This customs officer never checked our license plate or identification with another officer or the computer. The whole time he maintained a very serious, intimidating and uncommonly aggressive approach. When she asked why he wanted the wallet, he repeated his demand. Suzanne then said she had money and personal things in there that she didn’t want looked through, but he came closer to the car and raised his voice asking, “Are you refusing to give me your wallet?” and Suzanne said, “I want to know what you are going to do with it.” His reply was that he was going to look through it and he would look through it or do anything else he wanted as we had no rights. At this point the officer then went over to the passenger car door and opened it and said, “Fine, if you’re refusing to give it to me then I’ll have to ask you to pull over and take a step inside.” I was really surprised but asked for his name or officer number. In a very harsh and brutal sounding voice, he again ordered me to just pull over. Thinking that I would have to talk to someone else inside and would not be able to identify him, I again asked for his name or officer number. He very angrily said his name was on his shirt and to shut off the engine and give him my car keys. Again, very aggressively he told us to get out of the car and go inside the building.
After several minutes of waiting inside, the officer, whose shirt label identified him as Jason Ankeny (we later heard another officer refer to him by his first name) came in and demanded that my daughter give him her purse. She again asked what he planned to do with it and why. Officer Ankeny then reached over and assaulted my daughter by lunging at her hands tearing her nail in half and prying her purse from her arm.
He proceeded to throw all the contents onto the counter, going through every item in her wallet, even opening her cell phone and pressing some of the buttons. We were both stunned, shocked and in tears by this treatment and I asked to speak with a floor supervisor immediately.
Another customs officer approached without identifying himself but listened while I explained why we were both so upset and did not appreciate officer Ankeny’s attitude or unexplainable behavior. I was told that this was standard procedure and there was nothing that could be done about it. I heard officer Ankeny say to my daughter that she didn’t seem to realize where we were and that he had every right to do whatever he was doing because we had requested to come to the U.S.
After awhile officer Ankeny snapped his fingers and told us to come back to the counter. He asked where I was born (Antwerp, Belgium), where my daughter was born, what kind of house she lived in, where she worked, those sort of questions. Officer Ankeny then informed us that he had some paperwork to do which would take about 20 minutes and then we would be allowed to return to Canada because he was refusing entry to the U.S. for Suzanne. Again we were told to sit down and wait.
There were approximately 10 other officers in the office the whole time, all of whom were just watching what was going on. A female officer positioned herself about two feet behind Suzanne with her arms crossed over her chest, watching her every move. Officer Ankeny then told me to give him my car keys again and left with them.
After about 20 minutes, officer Ankeny told Suzanne to come back to the counter. I followed and heard him telling her she had to give him her fingerprints. Suzanne refused, saying this was treating her as a criminal and they had no right to accuse her of any criminal act and that she had done nothing wrong. Officer Ankeny was very insistent and said that if she didn’t co operate they would have no choice but to arrest her.
I then asked another officer who was standing by his side if perhaps he handled the request it would be better received and that the sight of officer Ankeny was just too upsetting for us. Officer Kenneth Huber said he would help and told officer Ankeny to leave and that he would take care of it. I then asked this officer how long Ankeny had been working there and his reply was “About as long as I have.” He then wrote his name and the office phone number on a piece of paper and said he was the supervisor.
Suzanne also asked for the full name and phone number of Jason Ankeny but the supervisor said he did not know how to spell Jason Ankeny’s name and that he was not permitted to release information about other officers. One officer pretended to help by supplying us with a fake name for Ankeny.
My daughter was then told that we would not be allowed to leave until they had her fingerprints and under much protest she was forced to comply as they said they would arrest and further detain her. After her index fingers from both hands had been copied through a finger scanner, a camera was suddenly produced and she was told her picture had to be taken. Helpless she was forced to let them take it.
Once we got to my car we both broke into tears, suddenly realizing that four customs officers were standing next to it. Still crying I drove away and crossed the Canadian border.
The Canada Customs officer asked why we had been refused entry, and we told her we had not been told. She then asked us what identification we had provided them and we showed her. She then asked Suzanne if she had any criminal record or was there any indication that she was moving down to the U.S. or had a boyfriend in the U.S. The customs officer was very surprised at the treatment we had received and strongly suggested we contact the American consulate, our local MLA office as well as the local media who should be informed of this horrific experience.
I have very high blood pressure and cannot take this type of altercation well. My daughter is 24 and has never had any kind of experience with the police, been fingerprinted, or threatened with arrest. She had plans of traveling to San Diego and to Hawaii with her boyfriend (who also lives in Vancouver) some time this year. She will now be much too frightened to leave Canada for fear of encountering another power hungry pervert with a twisted view of authority.
I have been crossing the border practically every week for the past 30 years because I have always enjoyed the trip and the shopping. I have always found the crossing guards courteous, pleasant and very humane up to this point. I have another daughter living in San Diego whom I visit at least once a year and a brother who lives in Coronado. My enjoyment of traveling to the U.S. has not just been taken away from me but has been replaced with a feeling of apprehension that no doubt will show if I am ever questioned at the border again. I have also been a member of Pace and Nexus for the past 10 years but the pride I felt in that standing was obviously unfounded.
Without any reason whatsoever, my daughter now has a file with U.S. customs and all because of some sick needs of one officer who has obviously been given authority way beyond his capability. My daughter and I are going to do whatever we can to see that that file is erased, that we are given an apology from the officer himself and that we are compensated for our emotional embarrassment, trauma and loss of enjoyment. This was not just an unpleasant experience - this was a traumatic, unjustified and unreasonable harassment and assault.
I read in the Vancouver Sun today that the U.S. Border Protection Service will begin fingerprinting and photographing non-Canadians December 31 so that that information can be checked against terrorist and criminals watchlists. Was today a premature example of the misuse of power and paranoia being used on an innocent 24-year-old female from Vancouver?
Name Withheld
Vancouver, B.C.
(Ed. note: The foregoing has been edited for length.)

The Editor:
I attended the Birch Bay archaeology program presentation last Saturday evening at the Birch Bay State Park.
Archaeologist Al Reid spoke for over two hours, passed around prehistoric and historic artifacts, displayed charts and maps and provided an informative and outstanding presentation to a well-attended crowd of over 60 people of all ages. Topics included geology (past and present) of Birch Bay, Birch Point, Point Whitehorn, Cherry Point, Semiahmoo and Blaine, past environments, migration habits/patterns, diet, tool technology, fishing/hunting/harvesting techniques and habitation of peoples over time recorded thus far.
Interestingly, when we observe this beautiful corner of Whatcom County as it looks today, Mr. Reid explained in a geologic perspective, Birch Bay has undergone many changes and this is why scientific survey (and preservation if necessary) and recording of sites is important in understanding why and how people lived here.
To no surprise, sites are being discovered at an increasing rate with development and construction at an all time high in the Birch Bay, Point Whitehorn, Cherry Point and Semiahmoo areas.
Kudos to the Birch Bay State Park under the direction of Ted Morris, staff from the interpretive center sponsored by the state parks department and Mr. Al Reid, local archeologist for an outstanding presentation. Thank you to The Northern Light for publishing in Coming Events this wonderful program that is availed to the general populous for free.
Remember - to understand the present, we must know the past.
Liz Bell
Birch Bay

The Editor:
What are we teaching our children?
While photographing the Blaine and Birch Bay parades, I observed to be what has become the main reason for participating in, and observing a parade - to throw and get candy. It is no longer about the pride of having a beautifully restored automobile, a creative costume, or a fabulously designed float - it is whether or not you are throwing candy. After the parades, the city workers or volunteers have to clean up candy wrappers, cans and bottles irresponsibly tossed by people who don’t seem to care about trashing the planet.
What good are discussions in school about environmental concerns when recycling - an activity that would have an impact on our area - is totally ignored? There are no recycling bins to collect the ubiquitous water bottles or soda cans at basketball, soccer or football games, track events, the annual school carnival, chamber-sponsored Blaine street fair, annual state math championship, or fund raising events at various places at the school, despite my repeated requests to the principal, vice-principal and superintendent.
Many kudos to the city of Blaine, and Blaine-Bay Refuse, for their dedication to separating out the vast majority of recyclable items during their annual clean-up project.
While the Birch Bay beach clean-up activities are beneficial, everything goes into a dumpster. It would take only a bit more planning to have recycling bins available. Birch Bay could copy the efforts by Blaine, providing a dumpster for all metal items and the chamber (by actually becoming involved in this worthwhile activity, since we have no government entity to take charge) could make money, as Blaine does, by charging a small fee per car or truckload to get rid of unsightly items – and, as a consequence, making Birch Bay more attractive.
The arts & crafts fair was a huge success, but there were no recycling bins. Trash was strewn over the property. Last year, litter patrols constantly walked the grounds and attended to full garbage containers.
These are all worthwhile activities. However, more attention needs to be focused on dealing with the waste we produce. It is up to us to dispose of our trash responsibly. That is what we should be demonstrating to our children every day.
Karl King
Birch Bay

The Editor:
What must the Blaine city council be thinking of, by considering the building of condos on the spit (Seagrass) when the sewer system on the spit is so inadequate that the area it’s in smells so bad you can’t go near it. Let’s get the sewer up to speed before we build more buildings than the sewer system can sustain.
Jennifer Glenday
Blaine

The Editor:
Referring to the flap over the right turn situation at H Street and SR 543, yes, it is confusing and very irregular. However, I remember when learning to drive (in Canada, by the way) that my father really pressed the thought that you always read the traffic regulation signs, particularly when in an unfamiliar area or changed circumstance. It is confusing, yes, but there is plenty of signage in view if one pays just a little bit of attention. We can have no sympathy for those getting citations, many more are deserved.
Don Jacques
Blaine

The Editor:
I urge everyone to let the Whatcom County Council know at/before the upcoming July 27 public hearing that you favor excluding Birch Point from the Birch Bay Urban Growth Area (UGA).
The Birch Bay Subarea Plan designates Birch Point as: (a) a critical area; (b) being along a shoreline conservancy and a “designated shoreline of statewide significance”; (c) key aquifer recharges; (d) having special protected shoreline status for herring spawning; (e) geologically hazardous, due to steep, eroding slopes along much of it; and (f) containing significant wetlands. As council member Laurie Caskey-Schreiber asserted, it is not appropriate to designate this critical an area as part of a UGA.
According to the state department of health, the Birch Bay shellfish population is listed as being on the verge of failing public health standards. We are at a crossroads to do something to correct this.
Preserving more open land ensures that the best stormwater run-off management system – nature’s forest – is kept in place, further preserving the bluffs and shellfish population.
This action would bring the subarea plan in compliance with the Growth Management Act, thus avoiding potential, expensive lawsuits that would cost all county taxpayers.
If Birch Point (along with Point Whitehorn) is not removed, it is highly likely that 1,000 friends will bring forth an appeal to the Growth Management Hearings Board, a lawsuit the county stands a formidable chance of losing. 1,000 friends has informed the county that the proposed UGA is too large and that the capital financing plan has several feasibility problems.
Such a lawsuit is a waste of our tax dollars. Please urge the council to conserve our tax dollars wisely by heading this off at the pass now.
Please also tell the council that you support the removal of Point Whitehorn from the Birch Bay UGA for the same reasons. Both points are important feeder bluffs for Birch Bay, and thus, they severely impact the life of the Bay, which we all treasure.
Jo Slivinski
Birch Point

 

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The Northern Light welcomes letters to the editor; however, the opinions expressed are not those of the editor. Letters must include name, address and daytime telephone number for verification. Letters must not exceed 350 words and may be edited or rejected for reasons of legality, length and good taste. Thank-you letters should be limited to 10 names. A fresh viewpoint on matters of general interest to local readers will increase the likelihood of publication. Writers should avoid personal invective. Unsigned letters will not be accepted for publication. Requests for withholding names will be considered on an individual basis. Only one letter per month from an individual correspondent will be published.

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Letters Policy

The Northern Light welcomes letters to the editor; however, the opinions expressed are not those of the editor. Letters must include name, address and daytime telephone number for verification. Letters must not exceed 350 words and may be edited or rejected for reasons of legality, length and good taste. Thank you letters are limited to five individuals or groups. A fresh viewpoint on matters of general interest to local readers will increase the likelihood of publication. Writers should avoid personal invective. Unsigned letters will not be accepted for publication. Requests for withholding names will be considered on an individual basis. Only one letter per month from an individual correspondent will be published.

Please email letters to letters@thenorthernlight.com