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My Turn: To the people of Juneau and the AFF

Cormier offers apology for folk fest cancellation

Posted: April 13, 2011 - 9:16pm

I would like to offer a heartfelt apology to everyone involved with our failed attempt to come to your fair state. I was very much looking forward to being there and seeing it firsthand and meeting the people of the area. I also have noticed there have been many negative comments to this paper about this situation and I would like an opportunity to state the facts.

I have traveled the world for 29 years and am very used to dealing with immigration issues everywhere. The United States is no different than Great Britain or the Middle East or Asia or anywhere else a union musician may go to play. Each region has protective measures in place so that indigenous people don’t lose work to foreign nationals. Even Canada has it’s own rules especially for musicians. American players regularly have a difficult time coming here to work. It’s unfortunate, but just a sign of the times we live in.

We have a reciprocal agreement with the United States Immigration Service through the American Federation of Musicians, our Musician’s Union. And yes, it’s called the American federation HERE (in Canada), as well as in the States! Ironic, eh? They process all of our work visas for us. All we do is submit the information on the gig we are playing on U.S. soil and our head office in Toronto does the rest. We did that, and we did it in the time frame set out by the Union. Unfortunately, if there is a backlog of applications, the system stalls and something that is supposed to take 35 days takes 120 instead. That’s it, that’s what happened to us. I wish there was some grander political reason we were denied access to your country, but there isn’t. It’s just simple clerical work that can’t be done in time because there’s so much of it.

As for the political slant that’s been put on this by some of the readers of the original article, I want to say this:

I witnessed firsthand the diverted planes landing here in Halifax and up in Gander on 9/11. We took those displaced people in and loved them and cared for them and tried to comfort them on one of the darkest days in human history.

I have personally stood in the burning sands of Afghanistan and spoken to American soldiers who told me they felt forgotten by everyone because the whole world was focused on Iraq, and how happy they were that someone had come over from “home” to entertain them. At the time they had lost more men there than any other nation.

I have witnessed the changes in our own country in the last 10 years, and believe me they mirror the ones in your own.

In short, it doesn’t matter who is in the White House, the United States has every right as a sovereign nation to protect its borders and people. Tighter immigration laws and regulations are one way of doing that, and no matter how you slice it, the office of the President is only ever occupied by a human being who has to put the safety of the country first, no matter how many itinerant guitar pickers miss their festival dates!

I would be honored if we could come to see you next year. We will apply for our paperwork now … haha.

• Cormier is a musicain from Nova Scotia, Canada.

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