An American author and broadcaster claims Canadian border officials questioned her about whether she would discuss the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games at a speaking engagement Wednesday evening in Vancouver.
Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now , a radio and television show aired by public and college broadcasters across North America, was entering Canada around 6 p.m. Pacific time Wednesday evening, set to speak at the Vancouver Public Library in an event co-ordinated by a campus radio station at Simon Fraser University.
"When I handed our passports over the border guard, they told us to pull over. We had to go over to the border facility. And they started asking me questions about what I was going to be speaking about. I was totally taken aback. They wanted to see my notes," Ms. Goodman told the Globe Thursday, recalling the encounter.
Ms. Goodman, 52, began telling them. In the country to promote her book Breaking the Sound Barrier , a collection of the award-winning journalist's columns, she planned to discuss the missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, of which she is a critic; Canadian icon Tommy Douglas, a hero of medicare; global warming; and the worldwide economic meltdown.
"Well, that pretty much does it. And he said, 'what about the Olympics? 'And I said, 'the Olympics? Do you mean when President Obama went to Copenhagen to try and get the Olympics for Chicago?' " Ms. Goodman recalled asking.
She claimed the officer persisted in questioning her about Vancouver's upcoming Games.
"I said, 'no, I wasn't planning to talk about that,' " she said. "He just seemed incredulous. They didn't believe me."
They began to search her notes and computers and those of her two colleagues, Ms. Goodman alleged. They then photographed the journalist and gave her a stipulation to leave the country by Friday night. They were delayed over an hour.
Ms. Goodman characterized the questioning as an undue attack on the freedom of the press.
"There's supposed to be a separation between the state and the press. The fact that the state was going through my documents, that they were rifling through notes, that they were asking me what I was planning to speak about, is a very serious issue," she said.
"If journalists fear they will be…monitored, it's more difficult for the public to get information. And information is the currency of a democracy."
Although an outspoken firebrand with a knack for shaking the establishment, she doesn't recall discussing or writing about the Vancouver Games at all.
"I have not written about this before in any way," she said.
Canadian Border Services Agency Pacific region spokeswoman Faith St. John declined to discuss the specifics of Ms. Goodman's case, saying only that border guards are entitled to question people until they're satisfied that they "meet all requirements of coming into Canada."
Asked whether the looming Games have led to any new questions of would-be entrants to Canada, Ms. St. John said flatly: "no."
Ms. Goodman went on to give a speech in Vancouver Wednesday night, and another in Victoria on Thursday. She'll leave the country Friday for a series of engagements in Washington state, she said. Speaking with the Globe prior to her talk in Victoria, she said she planned on discussing her border delays with the crowd.
"Clearly, if it's okay with the border police," she said.