Beyond the Border Agreement

Mar 15, 2013

Our Roots
We have dedicated this issue to Border Security. It is both timely and important that we do so, for we North American neighbours find ourselves at a critical juncture in this more globally accessible and competitive world where we benefit from reasonably stable governments, are blessed by vast territory, rich resources, significantly intertwined economies and secular institutions open to all members of our society.

With the signing of the Treaty of Paris (1783) which ended the war between the separating colonies and Great Britain, the 45th parallel and the St Lawrence and Great Lakes became the agreed boundary. Through parallel evolutions to the West, and the odd family feud along the way, our common border was extended along the 49th parallel from those lakes to the rocky Mountains in 1818 and thence in 1846 to the Pacific. Later, in 1903, a joint United Kingdom – Canada – U.S. tribunal established the border with Alaska, the largest U.S. state, along the 141st meridian West. Canada’s only land borders are with the United States and are 8,891 km (5,525 mi) long; the great majority of our population lives within 200 km of the southern border.

Early in our border relationship, in 1794, an International Boundary Commission was established to map and survey the boundary and maintain markers and monuments. It was made a permanent joint organization in 1925, and still does its work, though this has expanded somewhat. Major efforts, such as the Saint Lawrence Seaway in the 1960s, NORAD beginning in the Cold War years and, more recently, the Free Trade Agreement, all strengthened and reinforced this spirit of cooperation and mutual prosperity and well-being between ourselves and our only neighbours.

It has not been without some bumps, such as the war of 1812 and the dispute in mid-19th century on the Oregon Territory, and there are indeed debates today on such issues as ownership of the riches of the Beaufort Sea and our own declarations of sovereignty in the NW passage. These will continue, hopefully, to be resolved as has the 49th.

Our Future
With the tragedy of 9-11, the dark side of globalization took its toll. Security experts in this world of increasing travel and instantaneous communications, emerging markets and economies such as Brazil, Russia, India and China (referred to as BRIC), are crying out for more resources of all kinds.

With mega criminal organizations and lawful societies both relying more and more on immigration for sustained growth, the notion of border security required a new vision and approach. In 2006, the US introduced the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), the precursor of the Beyond the Border Agreement. The thrust was on more trustworthy identification of people and materiel entering the continent and devising methods to accelerate the passage of legitimate goods and people (with trusted traveler programs such as NEXUS, FAST, and SENTRI) and to thwart the illegitimate traveller.

With the September 2012 Beyond the Border Agreement approved by President Obama and Prime Minister Harper, a major step was taken in describing and providing our common border security while ensuring that hemispheric freedom of movement of legitimate people and goods to our common benefit was achieved. Key to this was the setting of tangible goals for which our two countries would be mutually accountable and which would ensure that we minimize duplication and waste by sharing intelligence, technology and working as combined teams.

In this edition, we provide the first reports from our two major federal agencies on our achievements so far and on their plans to face immediate challenges.

Public Affairs staff at CBSA answered questions in respect of this major change to their inherited mandate and as to the implementation of their key tasks in the BTB Agreement.

In that same vein, Chief Inspector Joe Oliver of the RCMP did the same, pointing to some interesting major successes in the making. In this new “intelligence led” world of ­surveillance and efficient information exchange, some key elements arise as we progress. One is the need for everyone at the coal face to share common intelligence in a timely way and be able to act quickly to the maximum of their legal mandate to take best advantage of resources and opportunities.

But, is there an elephant in the room? Yes there is, and it is the weight of major change and the understanding of a reasonable need for urgency to see this change take place. This applies in many realms including enabling legislation in many domains, subsequent effective harmonization of regulation of the actual processes of clearance, arrest and prosecution if needed and, finally, maximum effective use of all members of the international team to deter and catch those in violation.

The Elephant in the Room
I draw to the attention of our readers, the excellent piece by our Associate Editor Scott Newark wherein he addresses, in relevant detail, the issue of deficiencies in our immigration screening and enforcement which can have an all too frequent consequence of reduced safety and security in Canada. I also strongly recommend to our readers the complete interview series on these same issues which Mr Newark did with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute at:

For those who might feel screening needs more emphasis, note that Public Safety Minister Vic Toews indicated last year that CBSA had deportation orders for about 40,000 people, though it was unclear how many were still in the country. Last September, a CBSA spokesperson confirmed in an email to Lee Berthiaume of Post Media that: “Canada does not have measures in place to verify the exit of foreign nationals or Canadians from Canada.” We must resolve this issue – just as we must close the swinging door of illegal refugee appeals and the continuing selection of Canada as an asylum of convenience by certain groups. These situations cost our taxpayers much and reduce the number of legitimate and necessary immigrants who await approval.

From the front, we have an eye-opening interview of the head of the Customs and Immigration Union (CIU), Mr. Jean-Pierre Fortin on the unique and active role played by his union on proposing sound changes over the last six years against what appears to have been unnecessary lethargy or resistance by authorities at higher levels of CBSA and Public Safety.

We are pleased to present yet another perspective from CBSA border guards by Megan Ryder-Burbidge on the perplexingly long time, unnecessary risk, and what would appear to involve an unusually expensive cost to train and certify border agents to allow them to safely do what they must with their new side arms.

Ed Myers continues his illuminating series on the complexities of enforcing regulations dealing with illicit trade in tobacco, and we have two articles on the continuing drama and challenge of improving border relations efficiency. The first is a well-reasoned  article by Colin Robertson which was initially published in the Globe and Mail on the now muted, yet still silly, proposal of border crossing fees that runs counter to other Smart Border initiatives. Decision-makers should try to ensure this issue does not arise again. The other is a short but very ­pertinent and timely piece from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Interoperable Communications across Borders. It reinforces and amplifies other life-saving benefits of the Beyond the Border Agreement.

We must all remember that, when it comes to Border Security, there are some serious rough edges to repair. On 10 June, Kathryn Blaze Carlson reported in the Globe and Mail about a cancelled Air Canada flight from Toronto to New York that was scheduled to leave at 5:15 PM and which remained at the gate (with all passengers on board) while, as the pilot announced at 7:45, “US customs and Canadian customs officers were in talks about whether we had technically left the country… They were arguing whether we had to, once we got redirected and put on another flight, go through customs another time”.

That being said, we must salute the efforts that have been made to date in so many aspects in the last two years to improve our border posture, particularly in respect to meeting the clear tasks of the BTB Agreement. There is, however, a need for an urgent and major change – toward not only more efficient operation of our ports of entry but of policing and controlling illegal entry and exit, including points of embarkation before accessing our continent. Our international cooperation is coming along well, as the expectations in the BTB Agreement indicate they must, and our intelligence-led information sharing must keep up with innovative technology and criminal initiatives.

In our last edition, in the article by Jim Phillips the CEO of the Canadian American Business and Trade Association, our readers got a glimpse of the efforts to accelerate and simplify legitimate business traffic across and onto the continent. We at FrontLine strongly suggest that an equivalent effort and urgency is needed to secure those areas and concerns between and beyond the ports of entry and within each country to thwart illegitimate trade and passage of criminals.

Clive Addy, Executive Editor
© FrontLine Security 2013