by Dana Gabriel

September 20th, 2011

(BeYourOwnLeader) – The U.S. and Canada are very close to unveiling a North American perimeter  security deal that would promote greater integration between both countries.  This includes expanding collaboration in areas of law enforcement and  intelligence sharing which could dramatically affect sovereignty and privacy  rights. While there is a need for more public scrutiny, incrementalism has been  used to advance North American integration. In many ways this has kept the  agenda under the radar. Much like NAFTA and the Security and Prosperity  Partnership, a U.S.-Canada perimeter security agreement would represent another  step in the consolidation of North America.

During his speech at a recent  meeting of northern border states, U.S.  Attorney General Eric Holder told participants that the U.S. and Canada are  set to launch a pilot project next year which will allow law enforcement  officers to operate on both sides of the border. Holder explained that, “the  creation of ‘NextGen’ teams of cross-designated officers would allow us to more  effectively identify, assess, and interdict persons and organizations involved  in transnational crime.” He went on to say, “In conjunction with the other  provisions included in the Beyond the Border Initiative, such a move would  enhance our cross-border efforts and advance our information-sharing abilities.” The declaration, Beyond the  Border: Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness  issued by President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper last  February, identified joint law enforcement operations and information sharing as  a high priority. There are already examples of what we could expect from a  security perimeter as some Canadians have been denied entry into the U.S. after  their records  of mental illness were shared with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

While further details of the new joint law enforcement project are not  yet available, Stuart Trew of the  Council of Canadians pointed out that the plans are well advanced. This  prompted him to question, “why is Harper consulting with Canadians on a done  deal? We haven’t had a chance to yea or nay the perimeter agreement which is  expected to be released as an ‘action plan’ within weeks. But a pilot project  that legalizes and normalizes US policing activities in Canada is already set to  begin next year.” He added that this confirms, “the Harper government will use  its limited public consultations earlier this year to move ahead quickly with  whatever new cross-border policing and information sharing commitments it wants,  regardless of privacy and other concerns.” Last month, the Canadian government released  two reports which summarized public input received concerning regulatory  cooperation, as well as security and trade across the border. While improving  the movement of goods and people was the priority for business groups, many  individuals expressed concerns over the loss of sovereignty, along with the  protection of personal information.

On top of announcing plans to create  teams of cross-designated officers, Attorney General Eric Holder took time to  praise bilateral relations between the two countries, but acknowledged, “there  are areas in which the U.S. and Canada can enhance cooperation in criminal  investigations and prosecutions. And I believe we must consider how extradition,  and mutual legal assistance, processes could be streamlined.” He also stated, “As Canada’s national government considers various anti-crime policies and  approaches, we will continue working to implement a comprehensive anti-crime  framework.” Does this mean that as part of a security perimeter, Canada would  have to change its legal system to better reflect U.S. laws? As the fall session  of Parliament gets underway, the Harper government is set to table  tough new criminal reform legislation.

In the report entitled Shared  Vision or Myopia: The Politics of Perimeter Security and Economic  Competitiveness, former Foreign Service officer Gar Pardy warns that a  perimeter security deal with the U.S. could sacrifice Canadians privacy while  doing nothing to improve the flow of trade across the border. In his report,  Pardy reveals that “The concessions the Americans want is the transfer of  enormous amounts of information about Canadians and others about whom Canada  collects information. It is evident that to meet such expectations Canadian  privacy laws will need to be ignored, violated or weakened.” He also stated  that, “The Shared Vision approach essentially promotes the idea that in order to  restore the status quo ante implicit in the free trade agreements there have to  be large political concessions by Canada that will satisfy American security  concerns.” This could explain the Conservative government’s announcement that it  will reintroduce  anti-terrorism measures which have expired and are on par with sections of  the liberty-stripping U.S. Patriot Act. The move is tied to plans for a security  perimeter and is aimed more at satisfying U.S. fears.

In his report  released by the Rideau Institute, Gar Pardy also warns that, “when Canada–United  States privacy protection principles are under bilateral discussion, privacy  protection will not be increased. A more likely result is that existing Canadian  privacy laws, as flawed as they are, will erode to meet the demands of the  United States.” As part of his report, he recommended measures that would better  protect privacy rights and encourage transparency. This included all new  agreements with the U.S. affecting the privacy rights of Canadians, be reviewed  by the Privacy Commissioner. Pardy called for the creation of a single authority  to oversee all federal police and security organizations participating in  information transfers between both countries. He also recommended a separate  treaty that would protect personal information transferred to the U.S. for  national security purposes. With regards to a perimeter security deal, Pardy  concluded that, “If Canadian concessions on security and privacy rules do result  in the lessening of American border restrictions and controls then such results  would always be hostage to future events over which Canada has no  control.”

It is important to keep in mind that the move towards a North  American security perimeter is being done without congressional or parliamentary  approval. There is no reason to trust that our governments will strike any kind  of balance between security and freedom. That is why it is imperative that we  demand more transparency and input. With a joint action plan expected to be  released soon, it is my hope that Canadians and Americans will reject any  perimeter security deal that reduces privacy rights and further puts our  sovereignty at risk.

Source: Be Your Own Leader

Dana Gabriel is an activist and independent researcher. He writes about trade, globalization, sovereignty, security, as well as other issues.

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