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“Canada will pay a steep price in border talks,” writes former diplomat

Gar Pardy, a former member of the foreign service who worked on Canada-U.S. issues in both Washington and Ottawa, writes very critically of Harper’s perimeter security plan in the Ottawa Citizen today. Pardy challenges boosters of the border plan who claim it’s the first “potentially major bilateral initiative in more than two decades.” He points out that a Smart Border accord and then the Security and Prosperity Partnership foundered to some extent because of unilateral U.S. imposition of new security measures at the border.

“Throughout the decade hardly a year passed without some senior official reminding Americans of the threat Canada represented to the United States,” writes Pardy. “Recently, Janet Napolitano, the American homeland security secretary spoke of the need to treat the Canadian border much the same as that with Mexico. She wanted ‘a real border’ in the north. Since she is from Arizona, no doubt ‘real’ in her mind includes a lot more guns, walls and continuing self-delusions.”

Pardy says “the Shared Vision declaration [from February 2011] represents a dramatic and desperate change in strategy on the part of the government of Canada in seeking changes on the border.” Whereas previous security integration attempts were sold to Canadians as important in their own right, the latest negotiation paints them as a trade off for better access to the U.S. market. Pardy continues:

The essence of the security measures in the Shared Vision declaration requires the transfer of information to the United States on, potentially, millions of people, most of whom would be Canadian citizens. Officials with the Canadian Shared Vision working group negotiating with the Americans, in briefing interested Canadians this summer, were frank in declaring that increased Canadian co-operation on security was the price to be paid for the removal of border restraints and constraints. They were equally frank in stating that the privacy rights of Canadians could be affected in paying that price.

He concludes:

Both the Auditor General and the Privacy Commissioner have added their voices on the need for greater privacy protections. This government and previous ones have ignored recommendations for changes and have been reluctant to improve existing protections by updating the out-of-date Privacy Act of 1983.

If Canadians are not vigilant they may soon discover that the Americans have more control over their privacy rights than we do at home.