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NEWS: Harper confirms security perimeter talks underway

The National Post reports that, “Prime Minister Stephen Harper has confirmed Canada is holding ‘discussions’ with the United States on a (security perimeter) deal… However, he said no agreement has yet been reached and the talks are continuing.”

Harper stated, “We’re looking at ways we can enhance both our mutual security and the economic access we have to each other’s economies. We haven’t got an agreement yet, but we are looking at ways that we can enhance that and we think that that’s what Canadians really want. …We are having these discussions and I don’t think it’s a secret that this government wants to enhance our relationship with the United States.” The report adds that, “Harper flatly denied Canada is talking to the U.S. about ‘harmonizing’ its refugee and immigration policies.”

“Earlier this month, federal government documents leaked to the media suggested the two countries were negotiating a security perimeter deal supposedly to be signed by Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington in January. …Asked whether there will be an agreement signed in the new year with Obama, Harper said: ‘I can’t tell you. I can only tell you we continue to talk and we’re looking at a range of ways, as I say, we can secure our access to the American market and also protect our own security interests.’”

Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Washington, DC-based Council on Foreign Relations, has written that the talks likely involve:

1- “Setting common standards for screening incoming cargo before it leaves foreign ports, improving border infrastructure, and deepening law enforcement cooperation.”

2- “(Creating) an integrated entry-exit system for travelers. For Canada, this means adopting and rolling out a US-VISIT style biometric entry system.” According to the Department of Homeland Security’s website, “US-VISIT supports the Department of Homeland Security’s mission to protect our nation by providing biometric identification services to federal, state and local government decision makers to help them accurately identify the people they encounter and determine whether those people pose a risk to the United States.” The biometrics (a digital fingerprint and a photograph) are checked against a database to track individuals deemed by the United States to be terrorists, criminals, and illegal immigrants. Barry Steinhardt, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Program on Technology and Liberty, has stated that the watch list is “bloated and full of inaccuracy” and that “Whether or not the loss of liberty is worth the security gained is not a question — because no security is gained.”

3- “(Agreeing) to share much more real time information to help in targeting incoming overseas travelers who should be blocked or deserve extra scrutiny.”

4- “Establishing a workable ‘exit’ system at the land border with Canada.”

15- “(Committing) to an information sharing arrangement so that Canada’s entry data at the land border would serve as the U.S. exit data, and vice-versa. Much as at the U.S. side of the land border currently, American and Canadian travelers would not be required to give fingerprints, but other entrants would. Such data would be valuable to both countries, primarily for the immigration control purpose of ensuring that temporary visitors do not overstay their admissibility.”

Toronto Star columnist Thomas Walkom recently wrote, “The U.S. would be happy to control Canada’s borders to the outside world. But no U.S. politician who wants to get re-elected would ever agree to weakening America’s northern border with Canada. …So the upshot of any perimeter deal will be to give the U.S two borders — an outer one around North America and an inner one at the 49th parallel.”

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has stated that, “This security perimeter plan sounds like a whole new set of hassles at the border. It sounds like more border security, longer entry/exit lines at the Canada US border, new screening processes for anyone leaving Canada, more security guards and border personnel.”

The National Post article is at http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Canada+discussing+security+perimeter+says+Harper/4025654/story.html.