The Norman Transcript

News Features

June 7, 2013

Canadian charity fights red tape

NORMAN — Yards of red tape nearly derailed a Canadian charity’s efforts to help Oklahoma tornado victims.

But the story had a happy ending Monday, when a truck bearing 40,000 pounds of supplies pulled into the loading area at the Gate Church in Oklahoma City. The truck’s arrival prompted organizer Dennis Sauve to breathe a sigh of relief.

“It was very comforting to see the truck was there and how appreciative people were for all the items,” he said in a phone interview Thursday.

Tony Miller, lead pastor for the Gate, did not return a call seeking comment.

Paperwork: Sauve’s encounter with American-style bureaucracy began nearly two weeks ago, when the Canadian charity Windsor Lifeline Outreach started collecting supplies for victims of the May 20 tornado, according to the June 1 edition of the Windsor (Ontario) Star. Within days, donors had contributed 40,000 pounds of food, diapers, blankets and other supplies —enough to fill a 53-foot refrigerated truck.

Before sending the supplies to the United States, volunteers gathered invoices and other documents for many of the items and sent the information to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Sauve said. He said customs officials told organizers that the truck driver would have no problems crossing the border because the shipment was considered as humanitarian aid.

Armed with that information, volunteers loaded the truck on May 29 and prepared to send it to Oklahoma.

But Sauve said customs officials changed their minds on May 30, saying that volunteers needed to supply additional documents for each item in the shipment.

“We were pretty confident with the certifications,” he said. “Where we fell apart was with a lot of the canned food and the rice.”

Later that day, volunteers learned that the shipment would not qualify as humanitarian aid because President Barack Obama had not declared a federal disaster in Oklahoma, according to the Windsor Star. The president issued the disaster declaration on May 31.

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