Traveling to Canada is going to get a little tougher.

Gone will be the days when you could hop in the car and head north for a little hunting, fishing, hiking or tourism. Gone will be the days when a driver's license will be enough to get you into Canada and back. And gone will be the days of spur-of-the-moment day or weekend trips.

Last week, the federal government approved restricting re-entry of Americans traveling in Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and other neighboring countries to those with passports. The requirement will be phased in by 2008.

Interestingly, the passport requirement flies in the face of efforts to develop closer ties with our neighbors to the north. It's also exactly the opposite of what European Union member countries are doing.

The passport requirement reminds us of Europe before the fall of communism. It's a step backward for Canada, the United States and our neighboring countries.

Federal officials say the move is necessary in this post Sept. 11 world and its terrorism threats. We disagree.

Rather than making it tougher to travel within North and Central America, the federal government and representatives of our neighboring nations should be toughening policies to enter our perimeter. Furthermore, they should be developing immigration policies that mirror each other, as well as establishing a database accessible to all countries within the perimeter.

The new passport policy will only hurt the United States and Canada.

From now on, North and Central American citizens will have to buy passports, make sure they are updated and plan their trips.

Requiring passports will make it more difficult for Canadian snowbirds to come to Oregon and soak up our sun. It will make it more difficult for Oregonians heading north to purchase prescriptions and medical services at lower costs. And it will require families to buy passports for even the youngest infant or toddler in the family.

The requirement, in essence, will curtail some of the cross-border commerce that Canadians and Americans have come to enjoy. It's yet another example of repressive, self-restricting policies that have done more to hinder our free society than any terrorist attacks.

Federal officials should take another look at this policy.

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