New Canada-U.S. border and security arrangements announced in the context of Prime Minister Trudeau’s trip to Washington and the image of a Trudeau-Obama partnership. Where does the security of Canadians lie?
Can security be protected by what are called “security measures”? Those measures come in all shapes and sizes but are usually concerned with giving more leeway and discretion to the police powers to intervene and increasing their scope. Canada’s secret police have also already admitted to using the new “disruption” powers given them by Bill C-51 against “threats to the security of Canada” nearly two dozen times.
Furthermore, the more Canada gets integrated into the arrangements dictated by the United States, the more the loss of sovereignty means that Canadians lose all control over the public authority. Now, U.S. extension of its security measures into Canada – in a process called “baby steps,” i.e., so small Canadians will not notice – is being given a “progressive” veneer with the image of a Trudeau-Obama partnership. Phrases are bandied about such as information sharing that sound innocuous but in practice those measures form the context and authority for security certificates, rendition, torture, defamation and denial of redress for wrongs committed by the police powers.
With regard to the Canada/U.S. border, the ruling elite contend that security can be protected by “information sharing,” namely handing over information to U.S. secret police. This sharing includes information on all those who cross the Canadian border by land or air, sharing no-fly lists with the U.S. security agencies, and giving the U.S. veto power over immigration of refugees. The sharing also extends to placing U.S. security forces in Canada on a permanent basis, a de facto erasing of the Canadian border where it concerns certain U.S. police powers. Because Canada is to be held responsible for any breach in U.S. security, the government is expected to hand over everything the U.S. security forces demand without complaint.
The U.S. ruling elite claim that threats to its security do come from Canada and therefore they must have the right to decide how Canada handles its border and internal security measures. To bolster these claims, to this day the U.S. ruling circles push the false idea that culprits involved in the September 11, 2001 attacks entered the U.S. from Canada.
Under the cover of sharing and cooperation, any conception of sovereignty is tossed out the window and hence any possibility of a public authority defending Canadians. This stems from the discredited theory that our security lies in the rights of the police powers, and the rights of the people are defined in relation to those police rights and not from the modern definition that people have rights by virtue of being human and that the public authority has the responsibility to defend and guarantee those rights.
The Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) holds that our security lies in our fight for the rights of all. Security can only be defended when rights are defended and, in particular, the rights of the people to be the decision-makers in a modern political process through democratic renewal. This is the condition for the people to provide their rights with a guarantee.
In its latest edition published yesterday, Renewal Update provided information about the new security arrangements announced in the context of Trudeau’s trip to Washington, as well as related concerns.
Trudeau confirms direction set under Harper on the border and security
Following Prime Minister Trudeau’s official visit to Washington March 8-11 the Liberal governments has confirmed that it will take the same direction as the Harper government on the issue of the border and security. Speaking in an interview with CBC, Alan Bersin, Assistant Secretary for International Affairs at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, put it this way:
“The prime minister’s visit this week is a crucial step in the transition, this notion that Beyond the Border is the way we do business together. The prime minister and the president will be announcing a series of steps that confirm the direction in which we’ve been moving.”
Beyond the Border refers to the agreement signed between Prime Minister Harper and President Obama in 2011. It set out to put in place specific measures to place U.S. security forces on Canadian soil and seaways in the name of pre-screening people or pre-clearing goods before they get to the border for entry into the United States. This is presented as creating a North American “security perimeter,” the effect of which is that all movement of people and goods in and out of the perimeter is tracked by the U.S. Inside the perimeter, U.S. customs and other security forces are able to operate on Canadian territory to screen people and goods.
Under Harper the overall program was to destroy the public authority and politicize private interests. This has taken the form of identifying and eliminating any regulations or laws which inhibit the operation of U.S. security and military forces in Canada using various pilot projects and security and military exercises.
This included, for example, pilot projects for the Canadian and U.S. Coast Guards operating in one another’s waters and enforcing one another’s laws (Integrated Cross-Border Maritime Law Enforcement Operations (ICMLEO) – Shiprider), as well as massive military and paramilitary operations such as the infamous one unleashed surrounding the 2010 G20 meeting in Toronto.
Alongside these measures has been the “harmonization” of Canadian laws with those of the U.S. and elimination of laws that interfere with the demands of North American monopolies to operate “freely” within a United States of the North American Monopolies, without any limitations imposed on them by national, provincial or local governments, or resistance from the working class. This is the direction which the Trudeau Liberal government says it will continue.
Information sharing and travel tracking agreement
The federal government will collect additional information on Canadian travellers and share it with U.S. authorities according to agreements reached between Prime Minister Trudeau and U.S. President Obama during Trudeau’s visit to Washington. Final touches are being put on the tracking system which would see exchange of entry information between the countries, so that data on a person’s entry to one country would serve as a record of their exit from the other.
CTV News reported on March 11 that new “exit controls” will be put in place to share information about who is coming or going in either direction of the border. News reports say that this will be “tombstone data” including names and dates of birth. This includes collection and handing over to U.S. authorities of information on all individuals leaving the country through airports. Neither government has yet announced the details but the plan was confirmed to media by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.
It is unclear what precisely this data will consist of but a serious concern is the use of such information by U.S. authorities to flag Canadians based on their beliefs, lifestyle, name or other biometric data. The media present this measure as a way to detect people overstaying their visas and to determine whether those subject to removal or departure orders have actually left. It is also presented as a way to “gauge whether someone has met residency requirements for citizenship by measuring how long they have been present in the country. And it could help prevent people from assuming one identity in Canada and another in the U.S.”
It is reported that the U.S. already has the legislative authority to proceed with the entry/exit information sharing measures, but the Liberals still need to pass a bill to authorize this form of cross-border information sharing.
It was also agreed that Canada and the U.S. will “share” their respective no-fly lists, secret lists which bar individuals from air travel for unspecified reasons. Goodale told CTV News that Canada will work with the U.S. to develop a process for “getting people off the list if they ought not to be there.”
This comes after a number of reports this year of Canadian children, including toddlers being denied air travel after they were found to be on “no-fly lists” without any explanation. The government obfuscated the issue and said that the problem was airlines subjecting those under 18 to improper screening. Nothing could be done about the children being on such lists, the government said, because they belong to the U.S. whose jurisdiction has long since extended into Canada.
U.S. President Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, told CBC News that the U.S. is looking for much more information sharing from Canadian officials to better protect both countries against terrorism.
“I think from the American perspective, frankly, our concern is not that there is too much, but that at times there’s been too little,” she said.
“We must do [this] to ensure that what has transpired on 9/11, what transpired in Ottawa, or in San Bernardino, is not a day-to-day occurrence in our countries,” she added.
“From the U.S. point of view, yes. More [information sharing] is better. We have to do it carefully, we have to do it with very clear understandings and protocols. But we’re not serving our people on either side of the border well by hiding or protecting stuff to the point that we’re leaving each other vulnerable.”
This statement again pushes the notion that Canada and Canadians are a threat to the U.S.
This is all very suspect. What would having more information on Canadians have done to prevent any of these events taking place or protecting those killed? It is unfortunate that such statements go unchallenged. The Liberals are ready to oblige, based on the fraudulent notion that violating Canadians’ rights is a matter of “balancing” their interests with U.S. demands for “security.”
1. “Tombstone data” is commonly defined as biographical identification data that does not change during a person’s lifetime, which can include name, date of birth and identifying numbers such as social insurance.
Expansion of customs pre-clearance
Alongside increased “information sharing,” Canada and the U.S. are also expanding what is called “customs pre-clearance.”
According to the CBC, “The move is the latest effort to make travel between the two countries more convenient for travellers, at the same time the U.S. is looking to obtain much more information on passengers moving across the lengthy Canada-U.S. border.”
Such a statement is totally irresponsible and shows the importance of the working class having its own voice. Presenting such significant matters as the placement of more U.S. customs agents on Canadian soil as a matter of convenience is a real problem to say the least.
To start with, it must be asked why it is inconvenient to travel to the U.S.? Could it be that all the security measures imposed and demands to violate people’s privacy and basic rights in the name of “security” are reasons why it has become a problem for Canadians, including children with Arab-sounding names, who get flagged every time they try to fly into the country? Are these not matters of importance? Instead the whole issue is presented as a matter of convenience. International travel should not be used by big powers to violate people’s rights.
A March 11 announcement from Public Safety Canada informed that during Trudeau’s visit to Washington it was agreed that the two countries will “support the legislation necessary” to bring into force the Agreement on Land, Rail, Marine, and Air Transport Preclearance signed by the Harper government on March 16, 2015. It informs, “In the United States, the necessary provisions were introduced in the Promoting Travel, Commerce, and National Security Act of 2016 (S. 2612/H.R. 4657), introduced on March 1, 2016. The Government of Canada intends to introduce the necessary legislation in the spring of 2016.”
Public Safety Canada informs that over the next 90 days Canada and the U.S. will convene a “Preclearance Consultative Group (PCG)” to discuss implementation and “the potential for expansion to other sites in both of our countries over the medium to long term.” The PCG is also intended to “explore the terms and conditions necessary to pursue cargo pre-inspection and/or cargo preclearance pilot sites in the future.”
The announcement stated that an agreement was made to expand preclearance to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport and Québec City Jean Lesage International Airport, Montreal Central Station and Rocky Mountaineer (a rail company in western Canada).
U.S. customs officers are already operating at airports in Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg. *
In other words, these airports and train station are or will be subject to the dictate of U.S. Homeland Security. In these cases the boards which oversee the airports have been re-named “joint oversight boards,” and on this basis U.S. security agents have been given decision-making power over the operation of Canadian airports.
An announcement is expected in the near future on the extension of the program for the inspection of cargo arriving at major ports in the two countries. Public Safety Canada says that pre-clearance “strengthens economic competitiveness by expediting the flow of legitimate travel and trade while ensuring perimeter security and border integrity. Our shared intention to expand preclearance locations reaffirms our continuing commitment to these economic and security goals and exemplifies the robust partnership between the United States and Canada.”
Source: Renewal Update, March 14, 2016, No. 8. Minor copy editing by TS.
* TS note: U.S. customs officers have been operating in Canadian ports since 2002.