Homeland Security

Canada, U.S. talk data sharing


During his first official visit to Canada as Homeland Security chief, John Kelly met with his Canadian counterpart Ralph Goodale, minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, in a follow-up to a cross-border preclearance and data-sharing agreement signed a year ago between the two countries.

Kelly and Goodale talked about two pieces of legislation making their way through the Canadian parliament that would increase biographic data sharing and establish more preclearance facilities in each other's countries.

One bill would aid DHS data collection from the U.S.'s northern neighbor, facilitating the electronic exchange of biographic information for cross-border departures and arrivals between the two countries. Data collected by U.S. border agents from Canadian arrivals would be sent back to the Canada Border Services Agency under the legislation.

Last March, Canadian Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney and then-DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson signed a preclearance agreement aimed at allowing customs inspections be conducted away from official border crossings facilities at preclearance locations inside each other's countries, potentially ending snarls at border screening sites.

Some preclearance capabilities have been in place for select airports in Toronto, Vancouver and other cities under a trial effort. At those airports, Canadian passengers can clear U.S. customs before departure.

In February, President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowed to continue expanding preclearance operations for travelers and cargo in additional cities. The two leaders also said they would look for ways to further integrate border operations, including colocation of border agents in common processing facilities.

"This work starts with building on our long history of successful passenger preclearance operations, which currently serve nearly 12 million passengers a year on flights to the United States from Canada's eight largest airports," the March 10 joint statement from Kelly and Goodale said.

"Following-up on the commitments in March 2016, we discussed next steps to expand preclearance to new locations in air, rail, land, and marine modes. Canada will also continue to consider potential operations in the United States," it said.

Another proposed cross-border bill backed by Prime Minister Trudeau, has met with more resistance. The Canadian House of Commons voted it down and returned to committee on March 6.

The bill would set new capabilities for U.S. border agents in Canada and for Canadian border agents in the U.S.as well as new procedures for passengers in screening areas.

For instance, it would allow passengers to withdraw from preclearance areas unless they've been detained and would require border agents from passengers' respective countries to question and detain them at preclearance sites.

That bill was voted down because of privacy issues for Canadian citizens and concerns that it would violate Canadian sovereignty by increasing the powers of armed American preclearance officers on Canadian soil.

The vote also took the Trump administration to task for its more aggressive stance on immigration. The bill, said recommended amendment language, "neglects to take into account the climate of uncertainty at the border following the discriminatory policies and executive orders of the Trump Administration."

"While there is still work to be done in terms of legislation with the passage of Bill C-23 in Canada, we tasked our officials to report back on these issues, as well as negotiate a path forward to pursue cargo preclearance or pre-inspection, including identifying potential pilot sites," Kelly and Goodale said.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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