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    Vancouver Sun: Canada-U.S. border deal aims to strengthen North American perimeter while unblocking trade

    The Vancouver Sun reports on a border security deal between the United States and Canada, and a columnist in the paper raises privacy questions. The Vancouver Sun reports:

    Canada and the United States unveiled plans Wednesday for an unprecedented joint approach to border protection aimed at developing common practices to screen travellers and cargo, with both governments promising the measures will better guard against terrorism and speed up cross-border traffic.

    The much-touted border-security deal, unveiled Wednesday at the White House by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama, comes 10 months after both leaders launched negotiations to strike an accord.

    The result of those talks is a two-part “action plan” that maps out efforts to harmonize regulations across a spectrum of trade goods while increasing the amount of information shared between the two countries about both legitimate and suspect travelers. […]

    The reforms — many of them involving pilot projects that might not see full implementation for years — aim to integrate programs for Canada-U.S. perimeter security and to streamline the flow of goods between the two countries through pre-inspection and pre-clearance. […]

    Among the highlights of the new “Beyond the Border” plan:

    – Enhanced tracking of travellers in both countries, and both nations will try to identify threatening people who seek to “enter the perimeter” of both countries so they can be stopped;

    – An entry-exit system will be established in which both countries share information on when their citizens have crossed the border;

    – Each country will obtain more information, including biometric data, from people in foreign nations seeking to come to the U.S. and to Canada;

    – Each country will share more information about criminals in their countries who might be seeking to cross the border; […]

    Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart released a statement saying she and her officials will conduct a complete review of the deal.

    In a separate opinion article, Vancouver Sun columnist Craig McInnes noted there are privacy questions concerning the deal:

    But many of us have concerns about what appears to be the exporting into Canada of American judgments on what constitutes a security threat. […]

    Where the ideal of a more open border gets a bit sticky is when it runs into the elephant and mouse problem of Canada-U.S. relations. Establishing a common set of criteria for determining who is or is not a security threat will mean adopting American standards. Period.

    For Canadians who don’t run afoul of American or Canadian authorities, this deal could lead to easier travel, with expanded Nexus access. But when American authorities decide a Canadian is a threat, we’ve seen what that can mean.

    In Canada, Maher Arar has been completely cleared of all links to terrorism and given $10.5-million compensation for the treatment he received. American authorities, who sent him to Syria where he was held for a year and tortured, continue to keep his name on a no-fly list.

    Why do Americans still consider him a threat? They won’t say.

    While Arar’s case is extraordinary, it illustrates the trouble Canadians may find themselves in if the joint security arrangements we agree to with the U.S. do not contain far better safeguards than are now available. If you don’t know what information the Americans are acting on, you can’t defend yourself against it, even if it is demonstrably false. […]

    I’m also wary of the idea that both the governments of Canada and the U.S. will keep track of my whereabouts when I enter or leave Canada. This is another measure, like the installation of security cameras, that proponents argue shouldn’t matter to anyone who hasn’t done anything wrong.

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