I read somewhere that only 10% of U.S. Citizens have a passport, and was shocked to learn it. Yes, it's odd to need a passport to go to Mexico and Canada, but not having a passport means the doors of the rest of the world are shut to a person.
We live in very interesting times, and maybe having a passport, instead of being about stricter rules, could be about a nearly literal broadening of horizons. It's always been a bit of a misnomer- the "world's longest undefended border" is actually pretty well defended. But what was true before will be even more so come Monday, when the modern-day imperatives of homeland security will require Canadians and Americans alike to carry a passport in order to cross the 9,000-kilometre frontier and enter the United States.
According to Passport Canada, about 54 per cent of Canadians have a passport, compared to just 30 per cent of Americans. The long-awaited and oft-delayed measure has prompted a great deal of hand-wringing in both countries, mostly by federal and provincial officials in Canada and in the border states who fear the lingering effects of a deep economic chill.
The chaos is a bit overblown and yes, it's a new requirement, but it's requirement that has some practical value...better identification was inevitable. After four years of false starts and some minor concessions to opponents, the Bush-era Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative officially kicks in Monday, affecting travellers over the age of 16 in Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda, and Americans returning from abroad.
All of those travellers will now be required to have a passport or some other form of enhanced, U.S.-approved documentation. Most Americans don't hold passports - an estimated 70 per cent of them, according to U.S. State Department figures for 2008. That's raised concerns that those Americans won't bother visiting Canada, or entertain doing business north of the border, if they're now required to dole out the cash and endure the bureaucratic hassle of getting one.