Canada-US border deal threatens sovereignty

Sep 19, 2011 12:00 AM

by James Corbett

A proposed cross-border deal between Canada and the US is expected to be unveiled in the coming weeks. The Canadian government admits that the agreement includes plans to share security-related information, but says it is consulting with the privacy commissioner to ensure that Canadian interests are “protected and promoted”.
The government’s assurances come on the heels of weeks of reports that Canadian sovereignty is being increasingly eroded at the US border.

Earlier this month it was revealed that Canadians were being denied entry into the US based on their mental health histories. Just recently it was announced that the US and Canada were set to launch a pilot project cross-designating Canadian and American law enforcement officials called “NextGen” teams to pursue suspected criminals and terrorists on either side of the border.
Also recently, the Rideau Institute released a report criticizing the security plan, warning that “Canadian privacy laws will need to be ignored, violated or weakened” in order for the plan to proceed.

The current plan follows a joint declaration signed by Prime Minister Harper and President Obama in February which committed the two countries to an integration of perimeter security. It is generally understood that the declaration commits Canada to lowering its privacy and security standards in exchange for the easing of American bureaucratic red tape on cross-border trade.
Although this is being touted as a new agreement, it is in fact the latest step in a process that has been taking shape for years.

In the wake of 9/11, where the US responded by merging dozens of government agencies under a single cabinet department, the Department of Homeland Security, Canada followed suit with the creation of the Canada Border Services Agency in what many saw as the first step toward the creation of a continental security perimeter.
In 2005, the American and Mexican Council on Foreign Relations and the Canadian Council of Chief Executives issued a proposal for the creation of a common economic and security community in North America by 2010. It recommended unifying visa and refugee regulations, the creation of an integrated terror watch list, the use of biometric border passes and joint inspections of container traffic.

Later that year, the report was taken up and adopted as part of the so-called Security and Prosperity Partnership, a trilateral agreement between the three North American countries that was implemented bureaucratically and bypassed the legislature of each country entirely.
The SPP called for, amongst other things, the creation of a Canadian no-fly list by June of 2007. In June of 2007, Canada implemented the “Passenger Protect Program”, a no-fly list that mirrors the American program, which so far has over one mm names of potential terrorist suspects.

In 2008, Canada and America signed a Civil Assistance Plan which allows the armed of forces of either nation to cross the border in the event of a government-designated emergency.
In 2009, the two countries started a Shiprider program whereby American and Canadian law enforcement work together to police shared waterways.
Earlier this year, the Canadian Parliament passed bill C-42, legislation that requires airlines to pass information on all passengers of flights flying over US airspace with the Department of Homeland Security.

Now, Canadians and Americans alike are bracing for a further violation of their sovereignty with the announcement of the latest border agreement.
Devoid of the larger historical context in a media that has largely refused to report on the issues involved and deprived of a chance to vote on the issue through a process that is implemented bureaucratically, look for the new agreement, when it is finally unveiled, to be reported on quickly and then forgotten by the public of both countries.

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