FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 7, 2012
SCHUMER URGES CANADIAN GOV’T TO ESTABLISH PART-TIME CONSULAR SERVICES IN BUFFALO TO HELP MINIMIZE DAMAGE TO WNY BUSINESSES & BORDER MANAGEMENT INITIATIVES, IN THE WAKE OF CONSULATE CLOSURE IN BUFFALO
Schumer Pushes Plan For Part-Time Consular Service In Buffalo That Will Be Low-Cost, Hugely Beneficial For US-Canadian Trade Partnership – Plan Would Mitigate Negative Impact Caused By Consulate’s Closure
In Personal Letter & Phone Call To Canadian Minister Baird, Schumer Highlights That WNY Would Massively Benefit from Even Part-Time Access to Consulate’s Border & Trade Resources—Canada Already Uses Part-Time Consular Agencies In N. America
Schumer: Mobile Consulates in WNY Would Be A Critical & Necessary Compromise To Preserve Trade & Border Relationship
Today, on the heels of news that the Canadian government will close its Consulate in Buffalo, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer is urging Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird to help mitigate the damage of such a closure in Western New York, and commit to establishing part-time consular sites to provide resources to Western New York businesses and expertise in cross-border management. Schumer, who chairs the Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security, strongly opposes the closure of the Canadian Consulate in Buffalo and personally called Foreign Minister Baird to urge that Canada reconsider the potential closure of the Consulate. However, the Canadian government did not reverse course, and Schumer is now pushing to ensure that consular services do not disappear completely for Western New Yorkers. As New York businesses continue to tally the pending damage after the Consulate shuts its doors in Buffalo, Schumer hopes that Minister Baird will employ the same part-time consular system that Canada uses in high-tourism and trade areas throughout Mexico.
“While I was extremely disappointed that Canada suddenly and mistakenly closed their Buffalo consulate, I conveyed in my call to Canadian Foreign Minister Baird that establishing a part-time presence here is cost-effective and would have enormously positive impacts on cross-border cooperation and commerce. The Canadians already do part-time consular operation in North America so they should set up a similar operation here in Buffalo, too,” said Schumer. “My proposal for part-time consular services in Western New York will allow Canada to work within its budgetary constraints to provide the same services to residents, businesses and border officials in Western New York, while using fewer resources. Instead of operating a full-time Consulate, Canada would direct personnel to Buffalo from the Canadian Consulate in New York City and from Toronto on a consistent, part-time schedule, a plan that would at least partially alleviate the negative impact that the Consulate closure could have. I will work hand-in-glove with Minister Baird and other Canadian officials to make sure that business and travelers in Western NY have the services and resources that they need to move forward successfully in trade and border management with Canada.”
"I want to applaud Senator Schumer for taking this important step. As a distribution and logistics company working in western New York we have learned the importance of face to face contact with Consulate officials and I am hopeful the Canadian Government will agree to continue to provide this important service" said James Manno, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Sonwil Distribution Center, Inc.
Schumer highlighted in his letter and personal phone call to Foreign Minister Baird that his proposal would mitigate damage to Upstate NY, and Canadian, businesses from the closure of the Canadian Consulate in Buffalo. Schumer laid out details of his plan that includes using staff from the Canadian Consulate in New York City, as well as consular staff from Toronto, to provide part-time services in Buffalo. This would prevent Canada from having to hire new staff and minimize the cost of continuing to provide vital immigration resources from a location in Buffalo.
Schumer heard the call from community and business leaders from Buffalo that have voiced concerns that the closure would significantly damage trade between the U.S. and Canada. While he remains firmly committed to the belief that the Consulate closure is a step in the wrong direction, Schumer will continue to work tirelessly to maintain consular services in Buffalo. In his letter to Minister Baird, Schumer pointed out that Canada utilizes part-time “consular agencies” in parts of Mexico with high-rates of tourism to and from Canada. Schumer believes that Canada should extend similar services to its neighbor across the border.
Schumer joined Sen. Gillibrand and Reps. Slaughter, Higgins and Hochul last week to urge Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to reverse the Consulate’s closure in Buffalo. While Canadian officials have made it clear that budgetary issues will prevent the reopening of the Consulate in the immediate future, Schumer remains steadfastly committed to working towards a compromise with the Canadian government on behalf of Western New Yorkers.
A copy of Sen. Schumer’s letter is available below:
June 7, 2012
The Honorable John Baird, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Lester B. Pearson Building
125 Sussex Drive
Dear Minister Baird:
As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security, I am responsible for directing the Senate’s efforts on cross-border travel and commercial activities between the United States and Canada.
It is in this regard that I write today to propose a solution to mitigate the damage to New York and Canada caused by the decision to close the Canadian Consulate in Buffalo. Although I continue to believe the decision to close the Consulate should be reversed, I am also aware of the fact that the Canadian government has no intention of reversing the decision due to the budgetary costs of running a full-time consulate in Buffalo.
Nevertheless, I believe a compromise solution can be crafted that can preserve consular access in Buffalo while addressing Canada’s cost-cutting concerns. I propose that Canada establish part-time consular availability in Buffalo using staff from the New York City Consulate and other Consular personnel. Instead of needing full-time infrastructure and personnel, a consistent part-time schedule can be established where consular personnel come to Buffalo to process applications and provide other consular services. Appointments can be taken online to ensure the need for consular availability in Buffalo on any given date staff is scheduled to travel to Buffalo.
Many countries, including the Canada and the United States, employ part-time consulates in certain locations to ensure consular availability in locations where a full-time consulate is not in operation. For instance, Canada employs “consular agencies” in lieu of consulates throughout certain parts of Mexico to provide consular services in popular tourist destinations.
The Buffalo business community has already begun the process of determining what impacts the closing of the consulate will have and what specific services will be lost. I am hopeful that you will quickly agree to providing a part-time consulate in Buffalo so that the western New York business community can better plan for how to fill the void left by lost services. In addition, by committing to provide a part-time consulate in Buffalo the appropriate staff can begin meeting with western New York officials and businesses right away.
Although a full-time consulate is clearly the preferred solution, I believe part-time consular hours can at least help to serve the communities in Western and Northern New York while achieving the cost-savings Canada is looking for. If office space for a part-time consulate is an issue, I am happy to work with you to try to find accommodations for a part-time consulate.
I thank you for your attention to this important matter, and look forward to working with you to continue to promote travel, trade, and commerce between Canada and New York.
Charles E. Schumer
Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security