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NEWS: Harper still secretive on perimeter security despite on-line ‘consultation’

The Globe and Mail reports that, “The federal government wants members of the public to impart their ‘shared vision’ for the security of the Canada-U.S. perimeter – it just doesn’t want to explain what that means.”

The article highlights, “Ottawa-based researcher Ken Rubin used federal Access to Information legislation to ask the Public Safety department for documents related to the definition of the term ‘perimeter security’ in the context of the Canada-U.S. border.  …The department’s response was an unequivocal ‘no’. …In a letter written March 4, Public Safety officials said: ‘The records pertaining to your request have been entirely withheld.’ The department said the information could be injurious to international affairs, that it contained information developed for a government institution or minister, that it would provide an account of a government consultation, and that it is a matter of cabinet confidence.”

“Earlier this month, the federal government told Canadians that consultations around the perimeter security deal would be an open process. ‘We are committed to consulting with Canadians on the implementation of the shared vision for perimeter security and economic competitiveness,’ said Denis Lebel (Conservative MP for Roberval-Lac-Saint-Jean)…” But it is now clear that this is not the case.

A Council of Canadians action alert issued yesterday says, “No one can know for sure what ‘perimeter security’ means until the details, which are being developed behind closed doors, are announced in June. And we are being asked to suggest only improvements (not criticisms) of a plan we haven’t seen. Furthermore, the government is clearly prioritizing the input of business groups, though all Canadian residents will be impacted by deeper security ties with the United States.”

But, despite the Harper government’s secrecy on the perimeter security issue, the Council of Canadians trade campaigner Stuart Trew has developed suggested messages for people to send to the federal government’s on-line consultation. To see that action alert, please go to http://canadians.org/action/2011/SecurityPlan.html.

The federal government’s deadline for on-line comments on their perimeter security plan is Thursday April 21.

In early-February, the Toronto Star reported, “The confidential (Harper) government (communications strategy) document (prepared last fall on the perimeter security proposal) contains a list of ‘high risk’ stakeholders – those in Canada who might raise strenuous objections to stepped-up Canada-U.S. security arrangements. …Advocacy and civil rights groups such as the Council of Canadians, led by Maude Barlow, were…expected to react negatively because of ‘privacy concerns’. The strategy paper…suggested that cabinet ministers be made available to the media to counteract Barlow’s statements.”

Last December, the Globe and Mail reported that, “The Harper government is bracing for a backlash over a border security agreement it is negotiating with the United States, anticipating it will spark worries about eroding sovereignty and privacy rights, a document obtained by The Globe and Mail shows. The communications strategy for the perimeter security declaration…anticipates criticism from civil rights groups and others such as Council of Canadians chairwoman Maude Barlow.”

The Globe and Mail article on Ken Rubin’s access to information request is at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-notebook/ottawa-keeps-tight-lid-on-even-most-basic-us-border-deal-files/article1943066/?from=sec561.