Why the Turks and Caicos Islands won’t be the Canadian Hawai’i

Fun in the Sun awaits in the Turks and Caicos, suggests this screen shot from the Turks and Caicos Tourism web site -- but Canadians should expect to remain foreign, not domestic, tourists for a long time to come. (Click for source.)

Fun in the Sun awaits in the Turks and Caicos, suggests this screen shot from the Turks and Caicos Tourism web site — but Canadians should expect to remain foreign, not domestic, tourists for a long time to come. (Click for source.)

Forty years ago, an Ontario NDP MP named Max Saltsman tabled a Private Member’s Bill in Parliament to create “an economic and political association” between Canada and the Turks and Caicos Islands, a tiny British colonial outpost between the Bahamas and Haiti. Indeed, his move was welcomed by the islands’ government, which was prepared to petition the British government to allow the islands to be transfered to Canada.

Saltsman, who retired from politics in 1979 and died in 1985, never lived to see his dream come true, although a delegation from the islands tried to interest the Mulroney government in taking over in 1987.

Now talk of making the Turks and Caicos into a “Canadian Hawai’i” is being revived again, coinciding with the islands’ premier, Rufus Ewing, visiting Canada on a relationship-building visit.

Ewing denies any interest in inviting Canada to make a friendly takeover bid, but that didn’t stop Alberta Conservative MP Peter Goldring from picking up where the late Max Saltsman left off when his Private Member’s Bill went nowhere in 1974.

“Canada really needs a Hawai’i,” Goldring said in an interview with Postmedia News this past weekend. “The United States has a Hawai’i. Why can’t Canada have a Hawai’i?”

Border security might be one reason.

If the Turks and Caicos Islands were to become a Canadian territory — it is doubtful that it could obtain “province” status with just 32,000 residents — Canada would inherit a new southern neighbour: Haiti.

That’s where the problems start. The Turks and Caicos Islands are just 220 kilometres (137 miles) north of Cap-Haitien, the second-largest city in one of the poorest and most chaotic countries in the world.

That makes the Turks and Caicos Islands — despite being no economic success story itself — an appealing enough destination for many Haitians to try to make the dangerous ocean voyage every year.

A 2004 U.S. diplomatic cable noted that “border controls are essentially non-existent” between the Turks and Caicos and Haiti, and that there is a “revolving door  . . . in which repatriated Haitian migrants return to TCI within weeks of being deported.”

Despite efforts being made over the past decade to better police the 220 kilometres between Haiti and the Turks and Caicos, migration out of Haiti remains a serious security issue for the islands.

One 40-foot boat, with 114 Haitian migrants aboard, was intercepted on Mar. 31 about 10 miles offshore. Several days later, another boat carrying 84 people was found as it approached the islands.

The extension of Canadian domestic soil to within sailing distance of Haiti’s second-largest city would require Ottawa to prepare not just for the job of heavily policing the seas around the Turks and Caicos, but also for the probability of vastly higher numbers of Haitians attempting the dangerous sea crossing — and of creating the same political and humanitarian nightmares that plague the U.S. and Australia.

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About theviewfromseven
A lone wolf and a bit of a contrarian who sometimes has something to share.

5 Responses to Why the Turks and Caicos Islands won’t be the Canadian Hawai’i

  1. TRex says:

    Well, that’s depressing. Like many Canadians I always thought it was a viable idea! But not anymore.

    Thanks for the face full of cold water Seven. Way to kill the dream!

  2. theviewfromseven says:

    Oops — sorry.

  3. unclebob says:

    You know this refuge problem just might be able to be turned into an opportunity.. How about any refuges making it to the island will be offered landed status and be whisked away to Churchill overnight. They will not be allowed to leave town unless they walk or sail. HMMM…. slows the flow a bit and for the serious ones …….good for Churchill

  4. johndobbin says:

    Why not go full out and make Haiti our southern province. :p

  5. theviewfromseven says:

    They’re not selling, and we can’t afford to buy it anyway. 🙂

    Cuba is the one country we should forge closer ties with. If they reach the same per capita GDP as Uruguay, we will have an economy 1.5x the size of New Zealand’s just 3.5 hours from Toronto as a trading/NAFTA partner.

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