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Trudeau backs C-23, armed US border guards in Canada

Pacific Central Station Vancouver

The Trudeau government is moving forward with C-23, a controversial pre-clearance border security bill.

CBC reports, “U.S. border guards would get new powers to question, search and even detain Canadian citizens on Canadian soil under a bill proposed by the Liberal government. The bill would enshrine in law a reciprocal agreement for customs and immigration pre-clearance signed by the governments of Stephen Harper and Barack Obama in March 2015.”

The article notes, “Michael Greene, an immigration lawyer in Calgary, says C-23 takes away an important right found in the existing law. ‘A Canadian going to the U.S. through a pre-clearance area [on Canadian soil] can say: I don’t like the way [an interview is] going and I’ve chosen not to visit your country. And they can just turn around and walk out. Under the new proposed bill, they wouldn’t be able to walk out. They can be held and forced to answer questions, first to identify themselves, which is not so offensive, but secondly, to explain the reasons for leaving, and to explain their reasons for wanting to withdraw’, said Greene.”

Greene adds, “If that person tries to leave, then they can be charged with failing to co-operate, which under this bill is an offence they can be arrested for, and then charged and given a federal record.”

Furthermore, the article notes, “Under the existing law, a strip search can only be conducted by a Canadian officer, though a U.S. officer can be present. Greene points out C-23 says if a Canadian officer is unavailable or unwilling, the U.S. officer can conduct the search.”

And, “C-23 would also allow U.S. officers to carry sidearms while on duty in Canada, if they’re working in an environment where Canada Border Services Agency officers are normally armed.”

The US Congress passed legislation in December 2016 supporting these pre-clearance procedures. At that time, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted, “Great news. One step closer to easier travel and trade between our countries.”

The Canadian Press has reported, “12 million passengers [use pre-clearance] each year at Canadian airports. …The new agreements allow the system to be extended to every mode of transportation: first trains, then buses, and potentially someday even car travel. …The pilot projects will take place at Montreal’s train station and on Western Canada’s Rocky Mountaineer train line.” Pre-clearance stations are also currently in place at the Port of Vancouver, at Vancouver’s Pacific Central train station and on some B.C.-Washington ferry routes.

Trudeau will be meeting with US President Donald Trump in Washington, DC on Monday (February 13).

The Globe and Mail reports, “A senior official said Mr. Trudeau will not use the Oval Office meeting to criticize the President’s executive order temporarily banning Syrian refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries – now the subject of a legal battle between the White House and U.S. courts.”

Thousands of people across this country have been protesting over the past several weeks the Trump administration’s racist and Islamophobic policies. Rather than immediately rescinding the Safe Third Country agreement, Trudeau is extending the reach of US border security into Canada.

Take action: Welcome Refugees! Scrap the Safe Third Country Agreement