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Canada/US border deal a threat to rights and freedom

Allan Wood

December 18, 2011

The “Beyond the Border Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness Action Plan” agreement between Canada and the United States for 2012 means that Canada will adopt the draconian (and often unconstitutional) Bush-Obama positions on privacy, security, immigration, and surveillance.

For the first time in its history, the Canadian government will track each time anyone leaves or enters the country. In addition, all airlines will be obligated to divulge personal information on anyone flying out of a Canadian airport–regardless of destination–to Canadian authorities, and the US can receive this information simply by asking for it.

One of the stated goals of the agreements is to reduce traveller delays at the border. But the increased security measures will likely result in longer waits and harassment, especially for immigrants, refugees and racialized groups. The Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations has denounced the legislation for its failure to protect civil liberties.

Changes to border infrastructure will cost at least $200 million annually. What will move faster across the border is corporate trade. The border deal is not about surrendering Canadian sovereignty to the US, but enhancing the joint ability of both the Canadian and the US state to crack down on the civil liberties of citizens, immigrants and refugees, while promoting the flow of capital. The Canadian Council of Chief Executives enthusiastically supports the legislation for its “impressive range of practical, targeted measures”—which target people, not corporations.

As Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow noted, “the business community was the only sector at the table with government and guided the process from the beginning”. Groups concerned about health and safety, security and privacy issues, labour rights, and environmental protection were not consulted.

Despite his majority in Parliament, Harper is taking Canada in a direction contrary to the wishes of most of its citizens. There must be a vigorous debate in Parliament about these regulations, and resistance on both sides of the border, before they take effect in 2012.

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