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NEWS: Canada, US said to have reached perimeter security deal

The Globe and Mail reports, “U.S. and Canadian negotiators have successfully concluded talks on a new deal to integrate continental security and erase obstacles to cross-border trade. Negotiators have reached agreement on almost all of the three dozen separate initiatives in the Beyond the Border action plan, said sources who cannot be named because they are not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. The few remaining items mostly involve questions of wording and should be settled in time for an announcement in late September.”

“Details of the agreement are closely held (another way of saying they have been kept from public scrutiny). But goals outlined earlier include specific proposals to co-ordinate and align such things as biometrics on passports, watch lists, inspection of containers at overseas ports and other security measures. …The action plan is expected to propose making it easier to obtain temporary worker permits and documents such as the NEXUS card to circumvent Customs lineups. Factory shipments could be prescreened at the factory rather than at the border to ease passage. …Mr. Harper has told individuals in private meetings that he sees the Beyond the Border talks as the most ambitious advance in Canada-U.S. relations since the Free Trade Agreement of 1988.”

“The two governments are hoping that Mr. Harper and Mr. Obama will unveil the proposals themselves, although there are difficulties co-ordinating the leaders’ schedules.” Media reports have indicated that their meeting would be this fall, without noting a specific date or location. This article now seems to suggest late September.

“The most crucial phase then lies ahead, as both the Canadian and U.S. governments try to sell the proposals to their respective publics.” This past February an Ipsos-Reid poll found that “(68 per cent) of Canadians fear Prime Minister Stephen Harper will ‘compromise’ by giving up too much power over immigration, privacy and security to get a deal with the United States on border controls…” In late-August, the Canadian Press reported, “Nearly half of Canadians who (participated in a federal government on-line consultation) opposed greater integration of law enforcement between Canada and the U.S. Many voiced concerns about information sharing and the impact of joint programs on civil liberties, the (government) report says.”

Today’s article notes, “The sources said much of what is proposed will not require legislation, although some if it will require budget outlays.” Where does the Official Opposition stand on the issue of perimeter security? Earlier this year, the Globe and Mail reported, “NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said his party will strongly oppose the talks because they raise a wide range of concerns over issues such as food safety and privacy.” Dewar has also commented, “the question is what is the cost and what effects will it have on Canadian sovereignty.”

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To read Council of Canadians analysis on the perimeter security talks, please go to http://canadians.org/perimeter-security.