Archive for December, 2011

December 21, 2011: Season’s Greetings

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

As Julie and I approach our third holiday season in Ottawa (and our third Christmas tree as our loyal readers will remember) we want to take a moment to send season’s greetings to our Embassy family and to our friends across Canada, the United States, and around the world.

This is the time when all of us reflect on the events of the past year. It has been a great year for the relationship between our two countries. We are honored to have had a role in that effort. It has also been a great year for our family. We love it here. We continue to travel throughout Canada. We continue to make so many great friends.

On behalf of President Obama and the American people, we want to wish all of you a merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, and a happy, healthy, and peaceful new year.

David and Julie

Happy Holidays

December 20, 2011: Ottawa

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

Monday of last week was my first day back in the office after the announcement by the President and the Prime Minister of the Action Plans for Beyond the Border and the Regulatory Cooperation Council. (I left Washington on Wednesday night and spent Thursday and Friday in Toronto with the press — which is probably worth its own blog.)

One of the things we promised in the action plans is to consult, both formally and informally, with interested stakeholders to get their input on what is in the plans and on our progress in implementing them.

We started last week. The two architects of Beyond the Border and Regulatory Cooperation on the Canadian side, Simon Kennedy and Bob Hamilton, and I had a chance to meet with about 30 members of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce at a lunch arranged by Perrin Beatty, the CEO of the Chamber.

We received a great deal of useful feedback. I also found it interesting that Simon, Bob and I all expressed the same view to the group. What we did last Wednesday was to announce plans. While we believe they are excellent roadmaps to lead us to where the Prime Minister and the President want us to go — more trade, thinner borders and a more secure North America — we will only achieve those goals if we get to work and execute. Each of us encouraged the members of the Chamber — and all other interested stakeholders in Canada and the United States — to hold us accountable for results and to hold our feet to the fire in the coming months and years.

In addition to informal events like our lunch last week, we also have more formal processes for collecting input. On the U.S. side, we published a Federal Register Notice on the process inviting interested parties to comment on the Beyond the Border Action Plan. You may submit comments, identified by docket number DHS-2011-0115, through the Federal eRulemaking Portal, by email (, or by mail (Beyond the Border Coordinator, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Mailstop 0455, Washington, DC 20016).

The U.S.-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council is planning to hold the first RCC Meeting, with stakeholders from both sides of the border, in late January in Washington D.C. The individual RCC working groups will also hold stakeholder meetings to seek input as they draft their work plans.

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

With the holiday season fast approaching, I know that many of us are finalizing our end of year travel plans. For the snowbirds among us, travelling can mean getting away to Mexico or the Caribbean as we seek to escape the cold. For others, travelling can mean heading to Europe, Asia, or pretty much anywhere else in the world, including travelling inside Canada. Many of us will also be travelling from the U.S. to Canada this year. While we often look back at this part of the year with fond memories of time well spent with loved ones reconnecting with our cultural roots and traditions, some among us are brought back to a time when lost passports, misplaced wallets, and missed flights have resulted in unsettling and unpleasant flashbacks of misery and discomfort.

As the American Ambassador in Canada, I have no more important responsibility than the welfare of American citizens living in and travelling to Canada. Realizing that there are about a million dual U.S.-Canadian citizens in Canada, and many other Americans who frequently travel to Canada, I strongly encourage all Americans expecting to travel this winter to sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). If you enroll in STEP the data you choose to provide will help us best assist you in the event that misfortune strikes.

Through STEP, you can access information about the country where you will be traveling as well as information about Canada. You can also receive updates, including Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and other important information regarding your plans.

When I think of STEP, I’m reminded of a French comedy called “Lost in Transit.” In the movie, a traveler who has lost his passport gets stuck at a Paris airport without any assistance from his government and with no way to contact his friends or family for help. Over the course of the movie he runs into other travelers in the same helpless state looking for a way out of their predicament. I don’t want to spoil the movie for you, but I do want you to know that if those travelers had been American Citizens enrolled with STEP, their troubles could have been greatly eased or even avoided because their embassy or consulate would have been fully prepared to help with obtaining new passports, contacting relatives, or simply being a friendly face in an unfamiliar place.

While I’m comforted by the knowledge that millions of Americans travel abroad every year and encounter no difficulties, I’m also aware of the fact that embassies and consulates assist nearly 200,000 Americans each year who are victims of crime, accident, or illness, or whose family and friends need to contact them in an emergency.

So, if you’re planning on travelling to visit family, explore ancient Mayan ruins, scuba dive the Caribbean, or just get away this year, I strongly encourage you to enroll in STEP. Our friendly and discreet consular officers are there to help you when you need them, so please, put down your travel guide and map for a few minutes and take the time to sign up. Enrolling in STEP could turn out to be the most valuable time you spend during your travel planning this year.

December 13, 2011: Ottawa

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

By Guest Blogger Farah Pandith

No matter where in the world we are, people mark happy occasions with sweets. My first official visit to Canada began the same way, when my driver dashed into Ottawa’s Moulin de Provence café in the ByWard Market and returned with an “Obama Cookie”: a shortbread maple leaf cookie covered in swirls of red icing with “Canada” written boldly across it.

Farah Pandith speaks at a public event at the University of Ottawa

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton created the position of Special Representative to Muslim Communities following President Obama’s 2009 speech in Cairo. My job is global: find areas of common interest and build long-term relationships, people-to-people and within civil society, particularly with young, vibrant, connected, active “digital natives”. Coming to Canada was a wonderful opportunity to meet outstanding young people, and to hear first-hand the experience of Canadian Muslims, and the issues front and center in their lives.

Farah Pandith with University of Ottawa students at the Association of Progressive Muslims of Canada Eid Dinner

They spoke, and I heard. I was energized by my conversation with Carleton students about how issues of race, gender, and religion have changed in the world after 9/11. Students at University of Ottawa evoked their concerns about media portrayal of Islam. Participants in a video conference with Ottawa, Québec City, Calgary, Winnipeg and Vancouver asked how we can educate Muslims and non-Muslims about each other. A student at Ridgewood High School wanted to know how Muslims in America and Canada differ. I was honored to Keynote the Eid Dinner of the Association of Progressive Muslims of Canada, and celebrate their efforts to open doors to dialogue and understanding. Throughout my visit I heard many welcome America’s greater efforts to listen to Muslim voices and respect the diversity of Muslim experiences around the world.

Farah Pandith and Ann Taillon, Vice Principal of Ridgemont High School in Ottawa

Several students I met have already sent me Twitter messages, asking questions and sharing ideas. I welcome staying in touch via Facebook ( or Twitter (@Farah_Pandith).

There was no better day than UN World Tolerance Day to share the 2011 Hours Against Hate campaign, launched jointly with my colleague Hannah Rosenthal, the U.S. Envoy to Combat and Monitor Anti-Semitism. This action-oriented awareness campaign asks people to pledge time for someone who doesn’t look like them, pray like them, or live like them. I hope you’ll check it out and join us!

Farah Pandith and a Royal Canadian Mounted Police Officer at the Eid Dinner

I departed Canada, headed for Thanksgiving with my family in New England, with certainly one more thing to be thankful for: my great experience in Canada and the warm welcome that I received. Thank you!

Farah Pandith
State Department Special Representative to Muslim Communities

December 7, 2011: Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

I have just come from the Oval Office, where President Obama and Prime Minister Harper took our relationship to the next level as they announced the Action Plans for Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness.

The United States and Canada have long been the best of neighbors, friends, partners, and allies. Based on foundations of mutual reliance and respect we have built prosperity at home while standing shoulder-to-shoulder defending our shared values around the world. We have long understood that if we work together we are stronger, more prosperous, and more competitive.

President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrive to speak in the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011

Building on that spirit, in February we set forth a plan for the future of North America. We committed to a shared vision for perimeter security and economic competitiveness. We agreed to work together within, at, and away from our borders to enhance our security, better coordinate our regulatory systems, and accelerate the legitimate flow of people, goods and services. We rejected the false choice between security and efficiency at the border. We realized that by improving the efficiency of the border in smart ways we would enhance the security of North America while lifting the standard of living of our people. We promised to consult with our citizens and to deliver a detailed Action Plan to realize our vision. Today we deliver on that promise.

In 1961, President Kennedy had the opportunity to address the Canadian Parliament. He famously said: “what unites us is far greater than what divides us.” With the actions we take today between our two great countries that statement was never more true.

I invite you to read all about the action plans and what they involve here. We’ve posted all the documents and fact sheets from the United States Government and I’m writing to invite you to learn as much as you can about the plan and what it involves. I invite your comments here and welcome your suggestions and support.