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Going Beyond the Border: Council of Canadians, Common Frontiers on fact finding trip to Washington, D.C.

This week I’ll be joining John Foster of Common Frontiers in Washington, D.C. to meet with allied organizations, politicians and others regarding the Canada-U.S. perimeter security agreement. The deal is still in development by civil servants near Parliament and Capital hills, with advice from the usual corporate sources (CCCE, Canadian and U.S. chambers of commerce). Some of their suggestions make sense, but much of the Beyond the Border plan as Harper and Obama describe it doesn’t. I have an article in Foreign Policy in Focus this week explaining what I mean by this.

“The continentalists are out of the cupboard,” it starts. “The United States and Canada are taking another crack at North American integration, this time without Mexico. Civil servants are dusting off their policy playbooks, business lobbyists are flexing their muscles, and politicians are sexing up their communications strategies. Their opponents, activists fighting for a new economic model, are preparing a counteroffensive that we hope will succeed – again.”

We’re going to Washington to build resistance across borders to an anti-democratic process of neoliberal integration which cannot make either Canada or the U.S. economically or physically secure. Economic and social insecurity are today’s norms. If NAFTA did not create them both it certainly didn’t help with North America’s declining manufacturing, persistent unemployment, stagnant wages and total impotence faced with catastrophic ecological destruction. Harper and Obama claim they’re trying to improve NAFTA. The Beyond the Border action plan may just shield it from criticism and fortify the status quo.

The Institute for Policy Studies and Public Citizen are among the friends we’ll be meeting, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union because of the privacy, surveillance and policing aspects of the perimeter security deal. These will likely prove the most controversial part of the Beyond the Border action plan when it is released at the end of the summer. Already Canada has copied many U.S. security measures (ex. no-fly lists) and integrated others (Shiprider on the Great Lakes and west coast) since September 2001. Harper clearly intends to take Canada further down this road than most people are willing or should ever be forced to go.

I’ll be busy for the next few days but will report on the week in Washington once I’m back.