January 25, 2017 — Canadians crossing into the U.S. can be asked to unlock and handover their mobile phones for inspection by border security agents.
A spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale confirmed the power in the wake of several people being denied entry to the U.S. for Donald Trump’s inauguration and subsequent protests.
A phone simply counts among the goods a traveller is taking across the border, making it open to inspection.
Refusing to unlock a phone is regarded in the same way as refusing to unlock a suitcase when asked by a border security agent.
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.
A spokesman said the U.S. has the right, just like Canada, to set and manage those rules as it sees fit.
Several groups were stopped from crossing the border before, during and after Trump’s inauguration, and often held for lengthy periods before access was denied.
In December 2016, a bill that would expand U.S. border pre-clearance in Canada was adopted by the American Congress.
The move is aimed at enhancing trade and security on both sides of the border between the two countries.
It will see pre-clearance centres added for train travel, with the potential for bus and car journeys to be pre-authorized in future.
The hope is to ease border bottlenecks that slow down the movement of goods and people.
The bill has been several years in the making, taking so much time that many though it would never become law.
The legislation originated with Stephen Harper’s previous Conservative government.
Pilot projects are expected at Montreal’s central train station and on the Rocky Mountaineer line in Western Canada.
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U.S. customs offices will be established at both locations, where the necessary checks will take place to allow trains to pass straight across the border.
If the pilots are a success, the project will be expanded to include further travel, plus bus and then car journeys.
Pre-clearance is nothing new in Canada, with centres already established at most major airports. Toronto’s Billy Bishop and Quebec City’s Jean Lesage will be added as part of the new agreement.
Specifics of the legislation allow American agents to carry weapons, question and detain travellers. The bill does not grant customs agents the power to arrest.
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