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Amy Goodman recounts bizarre grilling by Canadian border guards

High profile American journalist Amy Goodman's border interrogation on her way to speak in Vancouver made headlines in November. In a television interview airing this Sunday evening she elaborates on the experience, describing an exchange with Canadian guards surreal enough to be penned by Kafka or Orwell.

When Goodman and her colleagues arrived at the Blaine crossing on the rainy night of November 25, she tells Peter Klein, host of The Standard, the fact that Vancouver might be hosting the 2010 Winter Games was not in her mind. The border guards asked her what she was going to be speaking about at the Vancouver Public Library later that evening, so she ran through the list: Tommy Douglas and public health care, the impending Copenhagen climate change summit, NATO's role in Afghanistan, America's role in Iraq, her new book. . .

The guards demanded to see notes for her talk but Goodman had none because, as she explained, she would be reading from her book and talking off the cuff.

That's when the back and forth got really strange. As Goodman recounts it to Klein, a guard demanded:

"Are you denying that you're going to be speaking about the Olympics?"

"I was completely thrown by that. I said, 'Do you mean when President Obama went to Copenhagen to try to get the Olympics in the United States?'

"And the border guard said: 'And you didn't get them.'

"I said, 'I know that.' I said, 'Are you talking about the Rio Olympics?'

"He said, 'No, I'm talking about the Vancouver Olympics. So you are denying this.'

"I said, 'Well until now, yes. I wasn't planning to talk about it.'"

The guards then pulled Goodman and her colleagues into a room for further questioning, photographed them, rifled their belongings, including notebooks, and eventually handed back their passports stapled to documents requiring them all to be out of Canada within 48 hours.

"I think the state was to say the least seriously violating my rights, the rights of journalists, simple as that," Goodman tells Klein.

In the interview, Goodman, who hosts the syndicated daily television and radio program Democracy Now! also discusses a recent case in Olympia, Washington, where military personnel were discovered to have posed as peace activists to infiltrate an anti-war group.

What too few authorities on both sides of the border don't seem to get in this post-9-11 era, Goodman tells Klein, is that seeking to stifle public dissent actually "threatens national security" because a nation is less secure "when people feel there isn't a free atmosphere of discussion and debate about issues."

See the entire interview on The Standard, which airs on Joytv10 on Sunday, February 7 at 8 p.m.

David Beers is editor of The Tyee

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