Canadian Relief For Oklahoma Tornado Victims Stopped At Border
When a massive tornado devastated the town of Moore, Oklahoma early last week, a group of Canadians took it upon themselves to gather relief supplies for the people in need. Their generous gift, though, has been stopped at the U.S.-Canadian border:
A Canadian shipment of relief goods bound for storm-ravaged Oklahoma has been stopped at the Canada-U.S. border in Windsor, Ont.
American officials will not allow the 20,000 kilograms of food, blankets and diapers into the country until every item on board is itemized in alphabetical order and has the country of origin of every product noted.
Dennis Sauve, the volunteer co-ordinator for Windsor Lifeline Outreach and the food bank co-ordinator at the Windsor Christian Fellowship, the two organizations that gathered the goods, said it’s a “physical impossibility” to do the paperwork required in time to get the perishable food to Oklahoma before it spoils.
Because U.S. President Barack Obama hasn’t declared Moore, Okla., tornado a disaster area, the 52-foot trailer of goods is considered a commercial shipment rather than humanitarian aid.
Sauve’s group secured skids of food donated from Heinz Canada, a refrigerated truck from ADT Transportation and fresh fruits and vegetables from a number of greenhouses in Leamington, Ont., southeast of Windsor.
“It was very rapid. By the hour it was swelling up in size. We were absolutely thrilled to be able to do this,” Sauve said. “I had no dream at all it would be this difficult. I never dreamt we would be called to the table on being able to give this food to people in need.”
The shipment was to be sent to the Gate Church or Oklahoma City, about 20 minutes away from the devastation.
Bishop Tony Miller called the ng-up “very unfortunate.” He said his church has been waiting to receive the goods all week.
“We were excited that our friends internationally were willing to send resources. They worked hard to put it together,” said Miller, when reached en route to Moore on Friday.zz
The truck was originally scheduled to leave Wednesday. Instead, it’s parked in Leamington.
“They were kind of shocked at how much we were able to get together,” Sauve said.
The truck was loaded with so much food and supplies, it was initially overweight and volunteers had to remove skids.
Sauve said U.S. agents have asked to physically inspect the produce and two skids of rice, donated by Dainty Rice in Windsor.
Sauve said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is now asking for documentation of every item on the truck, including manufacturer’s documentation and country of origin before it will approve the shipment as “safe for consumption.”
“That documentation for us would be an impossibility,” Sauve said.
He is now worried the fresh food, picked on Wednesday, will soon spoil.
“We’re holding our breath and saying our prayers,” Sauve said
Initially, I must say that I was surprised that Moore had not been declared a Federal disaster area as I had assumed this had happened quite quickly after the tornado hit and the scope of the devastation was know. Indeed, according to this report, President Obama had declared a major disaster in Moore and several surrounding counties. Why this isn’t sufficient for the shipment from Canada to get the necessary waivers is unclear. However, incidents like this do tend to demonstrate how bureaucracy and unbending rules make even simple tasks far more difficult than they need to be. Hopefully, they’ll be able to find a way to get the relief on its way before the food actually starts rotting.
Ed Morrissey sums up the situation quite well:
What’s crystal clear is the absurdity of the standoff that has 40,000 pounds of badly-needed aid stalled at at the US-Canada border. Under the circumstances, disaster declaration or not, Oklahoma needs the help. Furthermore, it should go without saying that the Canadian food system is modern enough to be low-risk to Americans even under normal circumstances. Not only is this absurd, it’s insulting to Canadians, who rallied to help us, not boost food exports.
But that isn’t how bureaucrats think, you see. For them, the rules must be followed at all costs, even when doing so makes absolutely no sense at all.