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NEWS: What might the security perimeter agenda include?

The Winnipeg Free Press editorial board asserts that, “Canada and the United States are expected to announce early in the new year a plan to develop a common security perimeter that could speed up the flow of goods and people between the two countries. The details of what such a plan might look like are exceedingly thin… Why, then, are some critics, notably the Council of Canadians, so opposed to the concept of continental border defence?”

“Canadians should withhold judgment until they get the details, but they should also give some thought to the meaning of sovereignty in a globalized world. Most countries of the European Union, for example, long ago ceded some of their sovereignty in return for the easier movement of people, goods and services. They have abandoned internal borders in favour of a single external border. Sharing of police information is very advanced and some municipal forces even have the right to pursue suspects into another country. The EU is also working on a common immigration and refugee policy. All these changes involved individual countries surrendering some sovereignty, but it has made trade and travel much easier.”

“The devil, of course, is in the details. Canada should stand up for its principles on human rights, which influence policy on refugees, immigration and privacy, but it should not see co-operation with America on critical trade and security issues as a threat to our sovereignty.”

The declaration to be signed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and US President Barack Obama in January has not been made public, and the recommendations from a joint US-Canada working group based on that declaration won’t be known until the spring. So it may be instructive to look back to the Security and Prosperity Partnership to understand what was proposed by high-level working groups less than four years ago to ‘secure North America from external threats’ and to ‘prevent and respond to threats within North America’.

Those initiatives and milestones included:

1. Test technology and develop recommendations…to enhance the use of biometrics in screening travellers destined to North America, with a view to developing compatible biometric border and immigration systems.

2. Coordinate the deployment of Canadian and U.S. immigration officers overseas to enhance efforts to disrupt illegal migration trends destined to North America.

3. For aviation security purposes, each country has developed, is developing or may develop its own passenger assessment (no-fly) program for use on flights within, to or from that country to ensure that persons who pose a threat to aviation are monitored or denied boarding.

4. Identify recommendations…to address significant legal restrictions to the sharing of investigative information.

5. Cooperate on issues of detention and removals to expedite the return of illegal migrants to their home countries.

6. Enhance our capacity to combat terrorism through the appropriate sharing of terrorist watchlist data and the establishment of appropriate linkages between Canada, the United States and Mexico.

You can read more at http://www.spp-psp.gc.ca/eic/site/spp-psp.nsf/eng/00055.html.

The Winnipeg Free Press editorial is at http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/editorials/security-perimeter-no-threat-112119229.html.