Midway border crossing on secret closure list

Map of Midway including the border; Courtesy of Castanet.net
Map of Midway including the border; Courtesy of Castanet.net
A leaked government document about the future of Canada's border crossings -- including possible closure, reduced hours, sharing of facilities and remote monitoring --  lists Midway, Cascade, Nelway and Chopaka crossings.
 
The document, "Small Port Working Group - Initial Results and Paths Forward", was done collectively between Canada's Customs and Border Services Agency(CBSA) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).   In the  PowerPoint style presentation of about 10 pages, 55 small ports across Canada are examined and a list of future options is provided.
 
Among those listed is Midway, Cascade (south of Christina Lake), Nelway (south of Salmo) and Chopaka (in Osoyoos). The report recommends either closing Midway completely, sharing the port with CBP or providing remote monitoring using video survillance.
 
Midway mayor Randy Kappes said the closure of their port would be determental to the future of the village's economic endeavours.
 
"(The possible closure) would go a longway to undoing a lot of the work we've already done," said Kappes.
 
The village is currently working on re-opening their sawmill for cross-border trade and there is some mine exploration starting up in the region, said Kappes.
 
There are also people who live on the U.S. side of the border who will be adversely affected by the closure. Many of those people use the services in Midway and some of their kids have also attended the school in Midway, said Kappes.
 
"(The government) needs to know that crossing means a lot to the whole area and we won't stand-by idylly and let them shut it down," said Kappes.
 
This is not the first time Midway has been considered for a change. Marguerite Rotvold, a Midway resident since 1981 who worked as a CBSA officer for 21 years, said before 9/11 a remote camera system was installed at the crossing, then was taken down after that.
 
"This has an impact on all travelers," said Rotvold. The Midway crossing is a great alternate route for travelers if Hwy. 3 was closed. A lot of people also use the southern route to cross in the winter on their way home to Grand Forks.
 
“The Conservative government has been less than transparent in letting communities know about how and when the decisions to close border crossings were made,” said Alex Atamanenko, MP for BC Southern Interior in a press release sent out today.
 
"The government's report and action plan 'Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness' was released on Dec. 6 (2011) and mentions establishing a Small and Remote Port Working Group to evaluate “a bi-national approach to operational alignment.”
 
“In reality, it is clear from the leaked document that the Small Port Working Group has already been meeting since last January. The proposed closures would be especially devastating for Midway which has worked hard to re-open their sawmill. Lumber that is cut and dried is shipped directly across the border, and Vaagen Brothers, the mill operator, has invested millions in state-of-the-art technology. We must not allow the closure of our border crossings.”
 
The other crossings in the cross fire include Cascade, which they've recommended reducing the current hours of 8 a.m. to midnight to less, Nelway will may have reduced hours or a remote video option and Chopaka which may have shared facilities or be closed like Midway may be.
 
The Midway crossing has three full-time officers, two of which live in the village and are active members of the community. The current hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
 
The CBSA has yet to comment on the document, which contains no timelines of when or if the recommendations will be acted upon.

To view the leaked document go to www.cbc.ca/news/pdf/small-port-working-group.pdf

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UPDATE: Regional District opposes crossing changes

The Regional District Kootenay Boundary has already sent a letter to the government outlining their concerns over the possible closure of the Midway Canada Border Services Agency Port of Entry. "Anything that affects our jobs we are concerned, and we should be," said Grace McGregor, Director of Area C and vice chair for the regional district. McGregor was also concerned about the Cascade crossing, which was proposed to have reduced hours in the leaked report, "Small Port Working Group - Initial Results and Paths Forward". "I was always hoping that a north to south corridor would come through our area," said McGregor, adding that Christina Lake is especially sensitive to changes in traffic flow due to the mainly tourism based economy. "If it brings any people at all (to our communities) then I don't want to see any changes."