Nexus memberships have been revoked from all Canadian permanent residents with citizenship in any one of the seven majority-Muslim countries affected by the U.S. travel ban, the Canada Border Services Agency has confirmed to CBC Toronto.
Citing U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a CBSA spokesperson said in an email that FAST memberships have also been revoked from all such individuals. FAST is a program similar to Nexus that is meant to speed up commercial shipments across the border.
The email goes on to say that memberships of dual citizens have not been cancelled. But CBC Toronto has learned of multiple Canadian-born and dual citizens who have reportedly had their Nexus memberships revoked in the wake of a U.S. executive order barring entry to passport holders from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Toronto-based lawyer Cyndee Todgham Cherniak said she has been contacted by at least two Canadian-born citizens with Muslim-sounding names who received notices.
And five others — a mix of dual citizens and permanent residents with direct connection to the restricted countries — have also reportedly received revocations from U.S. CBP, she said.
"There is reason to be concerned," said Todgham Cherniak.
"Being skeptical, I wonder whether or not it's a coincidence, or whether or not there is a decision on the part of U.S. border protection to go through the Nexus files and arbitrarily cancel membership of Canadians who are from one of the countries, have travel history in those countries, who are Muslim, or who have names that are Muslim."
MPs discuss Nexus-related reports
The development comes just hours after CBC Toronto reported that two men from either side of the Canada-U.S. border — one a Syrian with Canadian permanent residence status, and the other an Iranian citizen with a green card — suddenly received notice Wednesday that their Nexus cards were being revoked long before they were set to expire.
That prompted questions on Parliament Hill Friday:
1/ I just asked the Minister what assurances the government has sought from the US on this issue https://t.co/6DYjLiZfyO— @MichelleRempel
4/ If the US plans on changing NEXUS eligibility criteria, our government needs to be at the forefront protecting the interests of Canadians— @MichelleRempel
Goodale emphasizes Nexus program 'discretionary'
Responding to those questions, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said "a Canadian citizen with a Canadian passport has the same access to the United States that they have always had before.
"With respect to the Nexus card, that is a special Trusted Traveller provision over and above the passport. And we want to make sure that Canadians entitled to a Nexus card, which is discretionary on both sides of the border ... are in fact treated properly and fairly."
"We love this country... But we just want our government to look at this situation." - Syrian man with Canadian permanent residency whose Nexus card was revoked
Goodale also pointed out there is an appeal process for those who feel they have been unfairly affected. Nexus appeals must be filed with the country in which they were denied.
"There are procedures in both countries for removing Nexus privileges, if that's appropriate within the rules," he said. "And we will be very vigilant to ensure that the rules are properly respected."
But as Todgham Cherniak points out, Nexus cards are regularly revoked for a variety of reasons under border officials' discretion. In one case, she said, a client had his membership revoked because his wife had a muffin in her purse. Another time, an apple was to blame.
Calls for new appeal process
While Canadians can appeal to the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol ombudsman, the process can take as long as eight to ten months and is often unsuccessful.
That's unlike the Canadian appeal process, filed with the Nexus program and the CBSA Recourse Directorate.
In Canada, the officer involved in the revocation provides a narrative report relating to the incident. The affected person can provide comments on that report and are entitled to a review by a separate CBSA official.
If the appeal is denied, you can file a judicial review with the Federal Court, Todgham Cherniak explains.
"If a Canadian loses their Nexus card on the U.S. side of the border, there's very little you can do. … They don't give you a reason, they don't give you documentation."
The Toronto lawyer would like to see Canada and the U.S. review the Nexus program and move to a system where confiscations by American officials can be reviewed in a similar way to the Canadian ones.
The Syrian permanent resident of Canada who spoke to CBC Toronto agrees.
"Today we are considered some of the most dangerous passport holders in the world. There are a ton of professionals and a ton of educated individuals that are from Syrian backgrounds that are considered a threat," said the man, who asked not to be publicly identified.
"The only country that opened its arms to us was Canada. … We love this country, we want to give more to this country. But we just want our government to look at this situation."
See a copy of the revocation notice below: