Us, them, or we?

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What is a border? You know what I mean, that weird line on the map the denotes the place where one country, or province, or county, or town, ends and another begins.

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

It’s a simple concept. One that hardly ever gets a second thought. After all, from an individual perspective borders are seemingly fundamental to the world. After all, how do you talk about land without using borders to put a name on it? What is a border without a person to interpret it? Maybe I’ve been predisposed to think like this.

I grew up in a rural community called Carleton County. Anyone familiar with the area will know that it is exceptionally close to the United States border.

My grandparents lived less than a kilometer from that border. As a child my friends and I would ride ATV’s and dirt bikes along a trail that followed the border line. If you have never had the experience of exploring near a rural, secluded section of a border zone you might be surprised to know that in New Brunswick at least, large sections have no barriers preventing a person from crossing from one country to another.

In my experience there is often very little to denote that there is even a border nearby. A large section of the trail I used to ride my dirt bike on was technically in the United States, and I have probably illegally crossed that border hundreds of times, but as I said before what even is that border?

Lars Hagberg/AFP

Just down the road from my grandparents farm was Mars Hill Road. Mars Hill Road at one time was the main border crossing for the area. This crossing was eventually replaced with a more modern one that was closer to the Town of Centerville.

Mars Hill Road however, still lead into the United States, a perfectly paved road with a few homes dotted along it on both sides. The buildings that once acted as the border crossings on either side became Canadian residences and when I was growing up my great aunt and uncle lived in one and their children and grandchildren in the other.

All of this backstory is probably getting a bit annoying, but I promise I am coming to my point. 

My experience with the Canada/United States border is not the norm. Most of my dear readers have likely never experienced a border outside of an official crossing, which is probably for the best honestly. I could have probably gotten into a lot of trouble if I was ever caught on the wrong side of that border, but my question is why?

Interesting Geography Facts About the US-Canada Border - Geography Realm
Caitlin Dempsey/Geography Realm

Is it so ridiculous as a global citizen to want to or expect to be able to freely travel between countries? Should we not be able to move around and settle whenever we want? Of course, I don’t think I could advocate for completely open borders, but rather for a rethinking of who should be able to cross a border and for how long they are allowed to stay.

I found myself drawn to this topic because of the recent announcement of Canada’s plan to accept a large number of new immigrants over the next few years.

The immigration debate in Canada is thankfully, not as fierce or partisan as it is the United States or even Europe, as Canada really is a country of immigrants, excluding of course, the Indigenous populations of the land now known as Canada. All of us can trace our heritage to people that immigrated to Canada. Regardless of whether your ancestors arrived in Canada in the 1700’s, 1900’s or 2020’s.

The fact remains that you are only here because an ancestor had the opportunity and drive to immigrate.

Stephen Lubig/CBC

Canada certainly has a housing problem. One that should be addressed before the Canadian state attempts to settle large numbers of immigrant families in the country. But not because those families would be taking housing away from Canadians, but because housing is a human right and one that should not be left to administration of private industry.

Regardless of their skin tone, accent, or religion, citizens of Canada whether they be first generation, fourth generation, or Indigenous deserve to have access to “affordable” safe, and secure housing, full stop.

Moreover, humans in general deserve the freedom of movement, free from excessive barriers and discrimination, Canada is not my country, your country or Justin Trudeau’s country, we are simply caretakers.