September 6, 2017 – The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has started sharing information with the American government on American citizens who cross the U.S.-Canada border.
Previously, the two countries only shared information on foreign nationals and permanent residents under a 2011 security agreement.
Now, Canada has begun sharing details of American citizens travelling north, with the U.S. due to provide the same information on Canadians heading south soon.
The data shared includes the name of the traveller, their nationality, gender and date of birth. Other details include the country that issued their travel document, plus the location, time and date of the border crossing.
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The sharing also means a record be created of a traveller’s entry and exit between the two countries.
Legislation – Bill C-23 – is currently with Canada’s House of Commons that would see information shared on Canadian citizens. It was introduced in June 2016, but has so far made little progress.
Canadian authorities have started sharing information on American citizens as an ‘interim step’, part of a 2016 Memorandum of Understanding.
The information sharing is aimed at improving security and assisting both countries in enforcing its laws.
What Data Is Shared?
- Date of birth
- Travel document country of issue
- Time, date, location of border crossing
Canada says it uses the information in a variety of ways, from fighting terrorism to tackling potential social benefits cheats. However, privacy groups say the system is open to abuse.
Canada says the information will help to track down fugitives, terror suspects and sex offenders. It may also help with missing child alerts and in identifying those who overstay on their time here. The data will also be used for immigration enforcement and to make sure people have spent enough time in Canada for social benefits entitlement.
The CBSA is expected to provide a full privacy assessment once the bill has received Canadian Royal Assent. The agency told the Toronto Star it “takes privacy seriously.”
Trucking Industry Concerns
The Canadian Trucking Alliance has raised fears drivers will be asked to navigate some complicated laws south of the border or face tax and immigration issues under the information-sharing agreement.
Truckers can cross the border multiple times a year as part of their work, and spend significant time in the U.S.
The information-sharing deal will see closer monitoring of the amount of time Canadians are spending south of the border. The current yearly cap is 120 days, or 182 with special permission.
Quick Facts: The Canada-US Border
- Longest international border in world at 8,891km, 2,475km of which is with Alaska.
- 3 million Canadians travelled to the USA in February 2016, with 2 million moving in the other direction.
- 400,000 people and $2.4 billion in trade cross the border each day.
- Canada and US are second and fourth largest countries in the world by area.
- Canadian provinces and territories on border: Yukon, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick.
- US states on border: Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine.
Those exceeding the yearly limit face being considered a US resident, and having to pay the resultant taxes. They could also lose their Canadian residency and access to health care, or be deemed an illegal resident in the US, which could result in being banned from the country for up to 10 years.
Trucking representatives want assurances the data will not be used to form an argument against Canadian truck drivers.
Problems could stem from drivers spending a short time over the US border, and that being considered one of their allowed days.
Route planning could also become an issue with the need to avoid spending too much time across the border, posing cost and time-wasting concerns.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently sought to reassure Canadians they will be protected when screened by US officials as part of expanded Canada-U.S. border preclearance, which is also part of the Liberal Bill C-23.
Extra powers will be given to U.S. customs officials working on Canadian soil as part of a deal originally reached by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and previous president Barack Obama.
But new President Donald Trump’s USA immigration crackdown has Canadians fearing the prospect of extreme vetting taking place at Canada-U.S. border preclearance centres.
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