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Hide that doobie — U.S. agents can now arrest you in Canadian waters

The Canada-U.S. Shiprider project has finally hit the House of Commons floor. Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon tabled legislation today that would legalize a framework agreement signed with U.S. Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano in March this year.

“This agreement, informally known as Shiprider, enables the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the United States Coast Guard to jointly secure the common waterways of Canada and the United States,” said Minister Cannon in a press release. “Tabling in Parliament is an important step toward bringing the agreement into force in Canada. The agreement underscores our strong commitment to work together to strengthen the security of our shared border while still encouraging legitimate cross-border activities that promote trade, jobs and economic growth.”

The agreement let’s U.S. security officials make arrests in Canadian waters, as long as there is an RCMP or other Canadian officer on the boat. It also allows hot pursuits onto Canadian land.

We followed this on our Integrate This website as it went from Security and Prosperity Partnership pilot project to a full-time agreement.

“[F]or the first time in history, armed officers from the RCMP and US Coast Guard boarded each other’s vessels to patrol parts of the Great Lakes,” reported the RCMP Gazette in 2005. “Long-standing jurisdictional issues have prevented Canadian and American police boats from entering the other country’s waters. However, the pilot project overcame this hurdle with relative ease… Before the pilot can expand, however, it must meet the approval of both national governments.”

Our questions about the project remain the same:

* Why are armed U.S. Homeland Security officials allowed to freely move in and out of Canadian waters with the same powers as police officers in this country?
* What was wrong with our previous security arrangement with the U.S. Coast guard that requires this radical and unprecedented arrangement?
* Will there be public hearings on the Shiprider project? Will there be sufficient parliamentary debate of this project and the broader goal of security policy integration with the United States?
* How will giving Homeland Security jurisdiction in Canadian waters possibly make Canadians any safer than before this project was quietly established three years ago?

A further question we should ask is whether this law will apply to internal waters as well as border regions like the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence Seaway and Pacific coast? The question is relevant given that the G8 and G20 summits this year will take place in a Muskoka, Ontario resort surrounded by lakes.