Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says Canadians slapped with a lifetime ban on entering the United States for telling a border guard they have recreationally smoked pot is a "ridiculous situation" that needs to be addressed.
"We obviously need to intensify our discussions with our border authorities in the United States, including the Department of Homeland Security," Goodale told CBC's Power & Politics host Rosemary Barton.
"This does seem to be a ludicrous situation, because, as you say, not only is the state of Washington, but three or four other jurisdictions in the United States have legalized marijuana," he said.
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Goodale was responding to the case of Matthew Harvey, who has been excluded from the U.S. for answering truthfully when the U.S. Customs and Border Protection service asked if he had ever smoked pot recreationally.
"They said that I was inadmissible because I admitted to smoking marijuana after the age of 18 and before I'd received my medical marijuana licence," he said.
For the rest of his life, Harvey and other Canadians in his position must now apply for advance permission to enter the U.S. as a non-immigrant. The travel waiver, which costs $585 US ($752 Cdn), is granted on a discretionary basis, which means it may be good for a year, or two, or five, depending on the discretion of the approval officer.
When the waiver expires, Harvey will have to apply again and pay the fee, again, which is going up to $930 US ($1,195 Cdn) later this year.
A 'ridiculous situation'
"Every country has a sovereign right to establish the terms and conditions upon which you can cross their border and enter their country, but there's certain ironies about the current American position that we will certainly be very vociferous in putting before them," Goodale said.
The minister said that push would seek to "ensure that Canadians are treated properly and fairly with a lot of common sense, instead of the rather ridiculous situation that has emerged," he added.
Erin O'Toole, the Conservative public safety critic, says both Goodale and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should have taken the opportunity to address this issue when Trudeau attended a state dinner at the White House with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C., in March.
During the visit, both countries agreed to expand customs pre-clearance at a number of locations across the country as well as ways to resolve disputes over no-fly lists and the sharing of biographic information.
"I think it really is astounding that this was missed in March as part of the fanfare around the agreement with the state dinner," O'Toole said.
"I think they need to fix this quickly, because the flow of goods and people across our border is one of the touchstones of our relationship, and if it's impacted by this rule, it could impact people's ability to gain employment and that really concerns me," he added.