North American Safety & Security

Aug 8, 2016

The recent summit of the “three amigos” – hosted by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and involving U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto – brought considerable excitement to the Ottawa area. The wide ranging topics discussed and agreements signed during the short 1-day event are a testament to the strength of the relationships. Embedded in the discussions and agreements are several items of particular interest to FrontLine readers – items that affect safety and security and, more importantly, continued reinforcement of the importance of regionally-integrated solutions.

As I have written about in past columns, the nature of today’s threats to safety and security are global. Terrorism knows no boundaries; crimes can be planned in one jurisdiction and carried out in another; terrorists cross geographic boundaries in conducting their activities; and so forth. And so, agreements that result in American, Canadian and Mexican authorities working together and sharing information are not only important, they will become critical in shoring up the safety and security of North America. The Summit announcements contained a host of solutions that, if properly implemented, will help enhance safety and security in the North American context.

What was impressive though, was not just the agreements (I will mention some of them below) but the breadth of safety and security issues discussed. For example, the traditional topic of fighting crime led to an agreement to hold semi-annual meetings on drug enforcement, and the U.S. agreeing to host the first North American drug policy meeting in October. But, true to the broader definition that Frontline Safety and Security has been addressing over the years, there were agreements and discussions on health security, climate change, natural disaster management, and cross border economic trade, all of which were included in security and defence announcements.

Mutual recognition of health-related products is an area that will strengthen ties between the regulatory public health authorities of the three countries. Public health and food security are important safety areas that FrontLine has covered in previous editions (expect more in the future).

In a joint statement on “economic prosperity,” the three leaders launched the 2016 North American competitiveness work plan. The plan, focusing on improving economic performance, recognized a strong link between safety and security and economic prosperity, especially in the area of supply chain efficiency. Moving products and services quickly and safely between the three countries is highlighted in several areas of this agreement, including the establishment of a trilateral ‘trusted traveller’ agreement and single-window border facilitation. Both of these will enhance trade between the three countries and can only work with integrated security agreements and solutions. The online portal for customs means a single-window process for submitting information to customs authorities for all three countries. The tri-lateral ‘trusted traveller’ agreement puts Mexico into the existing NEXUS agreement and, with this, once again shared data.

Climate change, disaster risk reduction, and immigration were also highlighted in the security and defence announcement – further recognition of the breadth of safety and security. “To address the increased threats of natural disasters and extreme weather events due to climate change, Canada, the United States and Mexico will work to improve risk prevention, preparedness, monitoring, and response to such events. The countries will share and develop improved risk reduction standards, codes, regulations, and tools to enhance resilience. They will also work together to improve evidence-based information, data collection, and analysis, and to develop innovative ways to use civil space-based information to manage disasters.”

In the area of classic defence and security, were several announcements that provide opportunities for the kind of integrated North American safety and security systems needed to address tomorrow’s threats (the entire announcement can be found at

Human trafficking: The three countries have been meeting to share their practices and identify further areas for cooperation. Included in this was the Canadian government’s agreement to review federal procurement guidelines, rules, regulations and policies to see if there are potential vulnerabilities that could be exploited by human traffickers. This is an interesting recognition about how procurement and trafficking may be linked together.

Foreign fugitives: Another agreement involves 90-day pilot program in which the three countries will work together to “identify, locate and take appropriate follow-up enforcement action against the most wanted fugitives” with known or suspected ties to North America. I look forward to reporting on the results of this pilot and am interested in seeing how local police authorities in the three countries work together and share information.

Border security: Also included was an announcement that, in 2016, Canada will have customs personnel embedded into a U.S. customs center, where Mexican customs personnel are also embedded. The purpose is to create an integrated approach to pre-screening high risk cargo coming into North America. But the larger purpose is evident from the announcement “to establish a foundation for joint contraband threat identification and examination activities”. This kind of collaboration activity should pave the way for more integrated threat assessment and identification activities. Read more about the insidious nature of the contraband threat in this edition.

The close relationship between the three leaders was evident throughout the summit, and the growing closeness and integration of safety and security procedures and programs between the three countries is clearly headed in the right direction.

The trend over the past few years in terms of these kinds of joint programs is clear, and suggests that we are moving towards a more integrated continental mind set for safety and security.

Given the number of these programs, both announced and running, we can take heart in knowing progress is slowly happening and moving forward. Time now to focus on how to make it work more effectively – for the good of our collective safety and security.

Jonathan Calof, Executive Editor