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VIEW: ‘Why Canadians are right to worry about the border deal’, writes Walkom

This past weekend, Toronto Star columnist Thomas Walkom wrote about last week’s border security agreement with the United States which “requires Canada to adopt more US-style security measures – and share more information on Canadians with the US. …Americans are puzzled by the reluctance of so many Canadians to have personal information shared with Washington. They should not be. Our fears are rational. …Since 9/11, their government has played fast and loose with the rights of its own citizens. Is it any wonder that we worry about Washington doing the same or worse to us?”

Walkom notes, “Criticisms of the border pact are usually described in terms of privacy. But privacy is a remarkably anodyne term for what is at stake. It’s not that Canadians are unusually modest. It is that the U.S. has such a terrible record of misusing information.”

No fly list
He highlights, “The grossly flawed U.S. no-fly list that, under the deal, Canada has effectively agreed to adopt. This is the list that famously targeted, among others, the late U.S. senator Ted Kennedy. Some perfectly law-abiding Canadians have already been barred from air travel within their own country because their planned flight paths briefly crossed the U.S. The agreement to develop common ‘decision processes’ for air screening can only lead to more being stranded.”

Informal information sharing
Walkom also notes, “The agreement commits the two countries to engage in more ‘informal information sharing’. Canada also agrees to change its laws, if necessary, to “provide the widest measure of (intelligence) cooperation possible.’ Does this matter? Ask Maher Arar, the Canadian citizen arrested by the Americans on a New York stopover and sent to Syria to be tortured. As a royal commission later found, Arar’s troubles were caused by exactly the kind of informal and wide-ranging intelligence cooperation that the new deal envisions.”

He concludes, “As former supreme court justice Frank Iacobucci found when he looked into the arrest and torture of three Canadian citizens abroad, we have enough trouble with our own security agencies. To make it even easier for the Americans to track us is madness.”

What would the FBI think about Maude Barlow?
Today, the Toronto Star published a letter to the editor by Howard A. Doughty in response to Walkom’s column. Doughty writes, “Ottawa’s collusion in the Maher Arar case was horrific, but an even more unsettling scenario involves law enforcement’s impending program of information sharing on the ‘radicalization’ of North American citizens. Imagine a ‘Tea Party’ president’s reaction to Canadians who openly support universal public health insurance, multiculturalism and the CBC. It was bad enough that the RCMP kept a thick file on Tommy Douglas (‘the greatest Canadian’), but what would the FBI think about him or Maude Barlow, Bruce Cockburn or David Suzuki?”

His column can be read at http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1099943–walkom-why-canadians-are-right-to-worry-about-border-deal.