New U.S.-Canada border plan raises privacy concerns
Published Monday, November 28, 2011 10:57PM EST
Canada's new border action plan will feature a new entry-exit control system that will allow the United States to track everyone coming and leaving Canada by air, land and sea, CTV News has confirmed.
The new, 32-point border action plan will be signed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama when the pair meet at the White House in Washington next week.
But despite concerns about privacy stemming from personal information that will be shared with American authorities, the federal government insists there is little to worry about.
"When I go to the United States today, you have to provide your home, your birth date, your passport information, your travel information," said Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. "Whenever we look at security, we keep in mind privacy concerns are tremendously important to Canadians, and that's something we feel very strongly about."
But the office of the privacy commissioner has already pointed out that that the federal government has yet to share any details of the new border rules.
In past public comments, Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart has made it clear that Canadian sovereignty and privacy rights must be protected.
"Rather than jumping into a newly defined relationship with both feet, we should only do so with both eyes wide open," Stoddart wrote on her blog recently.
In exchange for more information about travelers crossing the border from Canada, Washington has responded to a chief Canadian gripe about cross-border traffic: gridlock.
Along with security, parts of the new border plan will focus on trade, including pre-screening stations set up on Canadian territory, meaning less congestion at the actual border crossing.
‘The problem today is that we have bottlenecks at the border," said Perrin Beatty, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. "You have low-risk cargo, low-risk passengers crossing the border at the same time as high-risk."
Beatty said that the new plan will allow Canada and the U.S. to focus resources where it's needed the most.
Under the terms of the new deal, the U.S. will move to cut down on traffic at border crossings and allow pre-screenings on certain low-risk cargo trucks. IN an effort to speed the process, U.S. officials will only flag suspicious vehicles at the border rather than doing full inspections that hold up other passengers and cargo.
According to Birgit Matthiesen, from the trade association Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, doing so will be good for the bottom line in both countries.
But the 32-point plan also features more than just new border-crossing protocols.
In fact, both nations plan to streamline and harmonize regulations in the automotive and food sectors.
According to Beatty, the new rules are the result of the integrated nature of the continental economy.
In particular, Ottawa has already quietly prepared regulations to adopt U.S. crash-testing standards for seat belts and built-in child booster seats.
According to Matthiesen, the harmonized regulations will ensure that business is better integrated on both sides of the border.
"It will save both Canadian companies, and their U.S. buyers in a highly integrated supply chain, millions of dollars," she said.
Some features of the "beyond the border" plan could be in place within months. Others, including the exit-entry scheme, will take longer to implement, CTV Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife reported Monday.
Prepared with a report from CTV Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife