U.S. Launches $1 M. Leahy-Led Ad Effort Aimed At Canadian Visitors In Advance Of New U.S. Border Crossing Requirements Next June

With tourism from Canada on the rise in recent years, U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced Tuesday that the U.S. State Department will launch a $1 million English and French public relations campaign in Quebec and its neighboring Atlantic Canadian provinces to raise awareness of new U.S. border crossing requirements set to begin next June.  Leahy, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, secured the funding in a budget bill enacted earlier this year.  Leahy chartered the outreach effort to help make crossing the Vermont-Quebec border as straightforward as possible in anticipation of holiday traffic, winter vacationers and next year’s Lake Champlain Quadricentennial celebration.


Next June, the Department of Homeland Security plans to begin implementing the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), which will require those crossing the border to present a valid passport, U.S. Passport Card, or WHTI-compliant document, such as a NEXUS, SENTRI, or FAST card.  The WHTI, established in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, requires all travelers to present a passport or other document that denotes identity and citizenship when entering the United States.  For the last four years Leahy has led several successful efforts in Congress to force the Bush Administration to fix the WHTI’s problems.  Leahy’s legislation has pressed the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security to implement the WHTI only after cooperating with Canadian officials, launching adequate public education efforts to help educate and prepare Americans and Canadians, and ensuring that any new travel documents are secure and convenient.


“Major changes are coming to U.S. border crossings next June, but many people on both sides of the border either do not know about them or aren’t ready,” said Leahy.  “This new advertising campaign, in both English and French, will help Americans and Canadians know which citizenship documents will be accepted well before they get to the border booth.  Making sure you have the right documents ahead of time should help the border agents process cars more quickly and reduce the wait times at all of our crossings.” 


“Thank you to Senator Leahy for his continued leadership to facilitate the ease of travel across the U.S.-Canadian border.  We are pleased to learn of the new resources the Senator has secured,” said Tim Shea, Vice President of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce.  “Especially with our Canadian tourism numbers at an all time high, we want to build awareness of the imminent rule change and ensure that residents on both sides of the border are fully prepared.”


“This piece of legislation is absolutely critical to educating the public about the documentation required to cross the border,” said Bruce Hyde, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing.  “The 400th Anniversary of Samuel de Champlain’s exploration of Lake Champlain should attract thousands of Canadian visitors to Vermont in 2009.  These dollars come at a critical time, as the uncertainty and confusion about border crossing could certainly dampen enthusiasm to travel to Vermont.” 


Vermont merchants, tourism officials and the Burlington International Airport have reported an increase in Canadian tourism this year.  Leahy says he hopes this advertising campaign in and around Quebec will ensure that Canadians know that Vermont remains open and welcoming for business and travel.


Leahy, who brought the Senate Judiciary Committee to Newport, Vermont, a year ago to examine the impacts of tighter border security on cross-border trade, said he has heard from Vermonters from Beecher Falls to Derby Line to Alburgh who report that new security measures simply are not well understood by people on either side of the border. 


According to Leahy, the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security admitted the agency was doing no outreach to Quebec in French.  Leahy, whose wife Marcelle is from Newport and grew up in a Francophone home, said it’s important to Vermont’s economy and culture that French-Canadians hear about upcoming changes in their native language.


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