Andrew Feldmar, a well-known Vancouver psychotherapist, rolled up to the Blaine border crossing in the summer of 2006 as he had hundreds of times in his career. At 66, his gray hair, neat beard, and rimless glasses give him the look of a seasoned intellectual. He handed his passport to the U.S. border guard and relaxed, thinking he would soon be with an old friend in Seattle. The border guard turned to his computer and googled "Andrew Feldmar."
The psychotherapist's world was about to turn upside down.
Born in Hungary to Jewish parents as the Nazis were rising to power, Feldmar was hidden from the Nazis during the Holocaust when he was three years old, after his parents were condemned to Auschwitz. Miraculously, his parents both returned alive and in 1945 Hungary was liberated by the Russian army. Feldmar escaped from communist Hungary in 1956 when he was 16 and immigrated to Canada. He has been married to Meredith Feldmar, an artist, for 37 years, and they live in Vancouver's Kitsilano neighbourhood. They have two children, Soma, 33, who lives in Denver, and Marcel, 36, a resident of L.A. Highly respected in his field, Feldmar has been travelling to the U.S. for work and to see his family five or six times a year. He has worked for the UN, in Sarajevo and in Minsk with Chernobyl victims.
The Blaine border guard explained that Feldmar had been pulled out of the line as part of a random search. He seemed friendly, even as he took away Feldmar's passport and car keys. While the contents of his car were being searched, Feldmar and the officer talked. He asked Feldmar what profession he was in.
When Feldmar said he was psychologist, the official typed his name into his Internet search engine. Before long the customs guard was engrossed in an article Feldmar had published in the spring 2001 issue of the journal Janus Head. The article concerned an acid trip Feldmar had taken in London, Ontario, and another in London, England, almost forty years ago. It also alluded to the fact that he had used hallucinogenics as a "path" to understanding self and that in certain cases, he reflected, it could "be preferable to psychiatry." Everything seemed to collapse around him, as a quiet day crossing the border began to turn into a nightmare.
Fingerprints for FBI
He was told to sit down on a folding chair and for hours he wondered where this was going. He checked his watch and thought hopelessly of his friend who was about to land at the Seattle airport. Three hours later, the official motioned him into a small, barren room with an American flag. He was sitting on one side and Feldmar was on the other. The official said that under the Homeland Security Act, Feldmar was being denied entry due to "narcotics" use. LSD is not a narcotic substance, Feldmar tried to explain, but an entheogen. The guard wasn't interested in technicalities. He asked for a statement from Feldmar admitting to having used LSD and he fingerprinted Feldmar for an FBI file.
Then Feldmar disbelievingly listened as he learned that he was being barred from ever entering the United States again. The officer told him he could apply to the Department of Homeland Security for a waiver, if he wished, and gave him a package, with the forms.
The border guard then escorted him to his car and made sure he did a U-turn and went back to Canada.
'Curious. Very curious'
Feldmar attended the University of Toronto where he graduated with honours in mathematics, physics and chemistry. He received his M.A. in psychology from the University of Western Ontario. At University of Western Ontario, he was under supervision with Zenon Pylyshyn, who was from Saskatchewan and had participated, along with Abram Hoffer and Duncan Blewett, in the first experiments with LSD-25.