An effective border is one that supports the efficient movement of goods and people.
In 2015, Canada exported over $400 billion worth of goods and $50 billion in services to the United States, while tourism activities accounted directly for $35.5 billion of Canada’s GDP and over 600,000 jobs.
Every day, over 400,000 travellers cross the Canada-U.S. border.
With that in mind, in 2015, Canadian and American governments agreed to provide for the preclearance in each country of travelers and goods bound for the other country. In Canada, the agreement will be enacted through Bill C-23, which was introduced in the House of Commons last June and is now being debated in Parliament.
Prior to establishing preclearance crossings, Canadian travellers had only one option: to be processed at ports of entry by US security, in the United States, under US law.
Today, with preclearance, Canadians are cleared by US border security, in Canada, under Canadian law, which includes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Bill of Rights and the Canadian Human Rights Act.
Both Liberal and Conservative parties have indicated they will support the legislation while the NDP and the Green Party have indicated they will not, citing concerns that C-23 gives US border security more powers.
C-23 however makes clear the limits on those powers. For instance, U.S. preclearance officers in Canada will not have the power to arrest or charge travellers, nor do they have primary jurisdiction to conduct searches. In the rare instance where American officers may proceed to conduct a search, they are subject to the same legal, human rights and constitutional safeguards as would apply to Canadian officers.
C-23 also recognizes the right of Canadians to withdraw from preclearance. To avoid illicit “probing” of preclearance sites by those who are trying to detect weak points or deficiencies, American officials will be legally entitled to question travellers to establish identification and the reason for their withdrawal.
Finally, as the agreement is reciprocal, the same provisions are being made to allow Canadian preclearance officers to conduct preclearance in the same manner in the US.
With the advantages of preclearance, Canadian travellers heading to the US have more to gain than lose. In my view, C-23 strikes the appropriate balance between security concerns and individual rights while offering Canadians a way to clear US customs in their own country under the protection of Canadian law.
By moving travellers through customs in a safe and efficient manner, and by maintaining each country’s sovereign authority to regulate access by setting and enforcing our own rules, Canada and the United
States will continue to benefit from sharing the longest, most open and successful international boundary in history.
I invite my constituents to view Bill C-23 at www.parl.gc.ca and to follow the debate in the House of Commons. If you continue to have concerns, I encourage you to write to me.
Stephen Fuhr is the Member of Parliament for Kelowna-Lake Country. Constituents can reach him by contacting our constituency office at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 250 470-5075.