By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - 0 Comments
Peter O’Neil reports that the cost to the CBSA of assisting in the production of Border Security is so far unknown.
But the 2011 memo and attached agreement between the CBSA and Force Four Productions also spelled out the operational costs to taxpayers in terms of the role government officials would play. The CBSA would “enjoy de facto executive production” authority, identify “scenarios, sites and storylines,” as well as oversee and control all film shoots.
“This (financial) burden is not insignificant,” CBSA president Luc Portelance said in the proposal that was released through the Access to Information Act. The memo also noted that the Force Four Entertainment pitch to the CBSA was reviewed by an official in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office before getting final approval from Toews.
I asked Mr. Toews’ office for the cost and the CBSA responded as follows.
The documentary show follows the regular day-to-day duties of CBSA employees at the land border, airports, mail centres and inland. The time and effort that CBSA has put forth in support of this production is very worthwhile when we see the value of reaching and educating millions of viewers. Our participating officers are doing their jobs, and the production takes place at no extra costs to our front line operations.
You’ll notice that there isn’t quite an answer there. Perhaps Conservative MP Brian Jean could submit an order paper question about this.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 18, 2013 at 6:37 PM - 0 Comments
The NDP’s Randall Garrison stood and declared the country to be taken aback.
“Canadians across the country are shocked that he personally approved filming immigration raids for reality TV,” Mr. Garrison reported, referring to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews. “This is not some episode of Cops. These are real people and real officers doing a dangerous job. Filming is exploitative and can put individuals in danger.”
The producers of Border Security might rather Mr. Garrison describe their show as “a dynamic documentary series that offers viewers a front row seat to high stakes, bizarre reveals, and comical conflicts that are part of everyday life for border security officers,” but “real people and real officers doing a dangerous job” might easily be clipped for the next promotional poster.
“How could the minister be so reckless?” Mr. Garrison wondered. “Will he take responsibility and put an immediate end to this dangerous and offensive PR stunt?”
The New Democrats stood to applaud this query.
The concern here involves the presence of television cameras during the recent arrest of eight migrant workers in British Columbia—part of a reality TV show on the National Geographic channel (home as well of Wicked Tuna and Doomsday Preppers), as formally endorsed by Mr. Toews. Continue…
By macleans.ca - Friday, February 8, 2013 at 1:00 PM - 0 Comments
Violence along the border has been rising, but new trade agreements can establish needed trust
While violence along the border between India and Pakistan has been rising in the disputed Kashmir region over the past month, coverage of the tensions is hiding a surprising reality: warming economic relations between the countries are giving rise to hope of a thaw in their historically strained relationship.
Trade between the nuclear neighbours has been rising steadily since 2004 and hit nearly US$2.7 billion in 2011; it’s expected to increase further since the two nations signed several new trade agreements last fall. And an expansion of the Wagah-Attari border crossing—the main land route between India and Pakistan—last April has allowed previously heavily restricted truck traffic to jump significantly.
All this is good news, says University of Western Ontario professor Salim Mansur: “Trade, travel and commerce will help to break down suspicion between the two peoples.” He cautioned, however, against getting too hopeful, noting that the trade agreements were a long time coming and there are still many other issues that need to be worked out. Still, “any small step forward in a long journey is positive and something to be cheered,” he says.
The new trade arrangements are expected to increase bilateral trade to $8 billion in the next two years.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, April 13, 2012 at 4:08 PM - 0 Comments
Sarah Schmidt tries to figure out what the cuts will mean to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The Customs and Immigration Union says border services cuts mean it will be harder to intercept “hardened criminals such as sexual predators.” A letter from aboriginal leaders seems to justify the elimination of the National Aboriginal Health Organization, but ITK leader Mary Simon quibbles. And in addition to the humans who will be laid off, dogs are also being put out of work.
Nineteen of the 72 dogs used by the Canadian Border Services Agency across the country, which are trained to sniff out guns, cash and drugs, were given their pink slips and will be put up for adoption, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews’ office confirmed Friday. “We expect the CBSA to use the most effective tools for each job. Detector dogs are a great tool in the right circumstances, but they will no longer be used when there is a better tool available. To be clear, all drug detector dogs at land border crossings will remain in place,” Toews’ press secretary Julie Carmichael told the Star.
According to reports from across the country, CBSA dog handlers had tears in their eyes when they got the news that their four-legged partners were being shown the door. Jason McMichael, first national vice-president of the Customs and Immigration Union (CIU), told the Star that the decision has serious consequences. “Taking away tools such as the detector dog service will make smuggling easier. It will result in more guns and drugs on our street,” McMichael said, noting that Ottawa is also throwing away the money it cost to train these dogs.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Thursday, December 8, 2011 at 12:02 AM - 3 Comments
Amid the pageantry of a joint appearance at the White House alongside President Obama, the prime minister on Wednesday touted the new border security agreement in grandiose terms: the “most significant steps forward in Canada-U.S. cooperation since the North American Free Trade Agreement.” The agreement, though, is less a single leap than a series of many incremental gains, say the technocrats who labored in the shadows to put the multifaceted deal together. One Canadian official likened border negotiations to the cliché about football—it’s a “game of inches.” And this agreement covers a lot of inches—including myriad new ways in which the two nations will share data about travelers and cargo, the promise of a single on-line portal for importers and exporters who today have to schlep paper documents to a variety of government agencies, and pilot projects that will allow certain kinds of pre-inspected cargo to cross the border without stopping. It also includes a border wait-time measurement system and an inventory of border fees to help citizens and policy makers understand how well things are working—or not.
There is no doubt that Canadian officials have learned their lesson from years of trilateral “Three Amigos” summitry that resulted in lengthy bureaucratic to-do lists and more controversy than results. This time, they cut out Mexico, instead running a bilateral process focused on a limited number concrete high-impact results that could be implemented in a short period of time. Rather than endlessly negotiating over grand policy changes, they agreed to more modest pilot projects in complicated areas such as land border-preclearance in order to “build confidence” and demonstrate tangible results on the ground. Continue…
By macleans.ca - Thursday, May 19, 2011 at 2:11 PM - 9 Comments
U.S. border chief testifies that more potential terrorists exploit Canadian system
A U.S. security official says there is a greater threat of terrorism coming from across the Canadian border than from Mexico. During his testimony to the U.S. Senate this week, Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan Bersin expressed concern potential terrorists are exploiting Canadian immigration loopholes in order to gain entry into the U.S., saying “we have more cases where people who are suspected of alliances with terrorist organizations, or have had a terrorist suspicion in their background—we see more people crossing over from Canada than we have from Mexico.” In 2010, U.S. border officials arrested 450,000 migrants who crossed the Mexican border, and 7,500 people crossing from Canada. But Bersin said that despite the numbers, the more significant threat comes from Canada, where there are more people who are flagged as terrorist threats. But memos from the State Department released by Wikileaks on Wednesday show that some of the practices being used to flag terrorist threats are being called into question, such as the criteria used to place people on U.S. blacklists or the lack of cooperation between the two countries on “No Fly” lists.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Tuesday, May 3, 2011 at 9:14 AM - 12 Comments
With the Harper government winning a majority, expect a sense of urgency on moving ahead with the perimeter security and regulatory harmonization talks with the US. Harper campaigned on this issue and is being warned that the window to move ahead is closing as the presidential campaign cycle draws nearer.
Working groups made up of senior officials from both governments have been holding consultations with a variety of on what perimeter security and regulatory harmonization should look like. They are working on putting together “action plans” for the leaders. There are expectations for another Harper-Obama meeting this summer at which the leaders would approve the action plans and instruct their governments to implement them.
The consultations in Canada have not been made public, but my story in Maclean’s rounds up some of the proposals the US government is receiving. They include some ambitious ideas such as a two-country visa, mutual recognition of agricultural inspections, and cross-border embedding of customs inspectors, among many others.
Story is here:
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Friday, February 4, 2011 at 3:25 PM - 35 Comments
To advance a vision of “perimeter security”, “Canada and the U.S. intend to establish a Beyond the Border Working Group composed of representatives from the appropriate departments of our respective federal governments.” It will report annually.
They announce the creation of a U.S.-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council composed of senior officials from both governments to work on “increased regulatory transparency and coordination.”
This will “in no way diminish the sovereignty of either Canada or the U.S.”
This will include early notice of regulations that could have effects across the border and to help make regulations more compatible.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Friday, February 4, 2011 at 2:30 PM - 0 Comments
The border announcement today will include the creation of a Council to review regulations with an eye to streamlining and helping facilitate trade. I’m told this is in part an extension of Obama’s domestic initiative to review regulations. He talked about it in the State of the Union.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, February 3, 2011 at 6:00 PM - 0 Comments
Barack Obama and Stephen Harper agree to discuss border security, while Silvio Berlusconi’s political career hangs by a thread
A report prepared for Washington lawmakers reached a familiar conclusion: a “truly shocking” lack of security along the Canada-U.S. border. Of the 6,400 km that separate the two countries, only 51—less than one per cent—is under “acceptable control,” the report says. Which is why this week’s announcement of a White House sit-down between Barack Obama and Stephen Harper is welcome news. After months of speculation, the time has come for both leaders to hammer out the final details of a North American security perimeter that will not only boost security, but improve the flow of trade.
By a margin of three to one, Canadians support changes to the monarchy that would rid the system of its males-first succession rules—an issue that was recently raised in the British Parliament. Maybe that explains the report in a London tabloid that William and Kate have chosen Canada as the site of their first overseas tour after the April wedding. Clearly, the United States wasn’t even an option. A new survey found that only nine per cent of Americans are interested in whether the royal marriage even lasts.
In the safe lane
According to new figures released by Transport Canada, death by car is on the decline. In 2008 (the latest stats available), 2,419 people were killed behind the wheel, a 12 per cent drop from the previous year—and the lowest number of fatalities in nearly six decades. The dip is a direct result of tougher seat-belt and drunk-driving laws, not to mention airbags and impact beams. But gas prices deserve some “credit” too; Statistics Canada says the cost of a fill-up jumped 13 per cent over the past year.
Lots of people are lucky to be alive this week. In New Zealand, a hydro worker injured only his thumb and elbow after getting zapped with 19,000 volts of electricity (“I should be in a pine box,” he joked). In Utah, an accused robber is recovering after hurling himself out of the window of a moving police car—while wearing handcuffs. And in Scotland, a mountain climber somehow survived a 300-m fall off the side of an icy cliff. Rescuers found him standing up and looking at his map.
Cruel and unusual
The reported slaughter of around 100 sled dogs in Whistler, B.C. has sparked outrage. The horrifying details of how the dogs were killed emerged in the workers’ compensation documents of a B.C. man claiming post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the incident. The man’s lawyer says his client shot the dogs after being told by the tour operator he sub-contracted for to make the business more “cost effective.” The tour operator insists it didn’t order the cull, but if dogs were euthanized it would be done in a “humane manner.” The B.C. SPCA and the RCMP are investigating.
Silvio “the Situation”
If the allegations are true, Silvio Berlusconi won’t be in office much longer. He’ll be in jail. The Italian prime minister—already famous for hosting “bunga bunga” sex parties at his home—is now accused of hiring two underage prostitutes. When one was later arrested for theft, Berlusconi reportedly pressured police to release her. Can you blame Jersey Shore producers for deciding to film Season 4 back in the old country?
Big, fat problem
As it does every five years, the U.S. government released new dietary guidelines this week. The mere fact Americans need to be reminded every five years to eat more greens and cut back on the salt is scary enough. But then again, Canadians may benefit from a similar scolding. According to a new report from the Heart and Stroke Foundation, nearly 90 per cent of Canadians consider themselves healthy, despite plenty of evidence that we don’t eat nearly enough fruits and veggies, and many of us are packing more pounds than we should.
A new study says creative people are more likely to cheat because they can find “original ways to bypass moral rules.” Although being clever, resourceful and imaginative looks great on a resumé, researchers also found that creativity “allows people to come up with a lot of excuses and justifications for why their behaviour isn’t bad.” Exhibit A: Lise Thibault. The former Quebec lieutenant-governor made her first court appearance this week, accused of creatively spending $700,000 in taxpayer money.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 12:23 PM - 3 Comments
Swollen Members emcee linked to Hells Angels
Shane Bunting, a.k.a. Mad Child, of the Vancouver-based hip hop group Swollen Members, has been denied entry to the U.S. American officials haven’t confirmed their reasoning, but Bunting says he was turned back from the border after being held several hours and then questioned over his links to members of the Hells Angels biker gang. He has now been banned from the U.S., which will likely mean the Juno-winning group will have to cancel a North American tour planned for this spring. Bunting admits he was charged with assault when he was a minor, but has no other criminal record. However, in 2007, a SWAT team showed up at his Kelowna, B.C. home looking for the owner of a Dodge Ram pickup truck owned by a Hells Angels member that was parked in his driveway. In addition, three Hells Angels members appeared in his 2003 music video in full gang colours and Swollen Members performed at a show last September which was billed as a make-up session for warring gang members.
By macleans.ca - Friday, December 10, 2010 at 3:15 PM - 59 Comments
Critics say a proposed U.S.-Canada pact on border security could threaten Canadian sovereignty
In an effort to further coordinate border security and trade, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama have drafted an agreement entitled “Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Competitiveness.” The document proposes closer cooperation among police, security and military officials from both countries, as well as shared border management facilities and greater exchange of law enforcement information intelligence. Critics see the deal as posing a possible threat to the personal privacy of Canadians, and raising questions around Canadian sovereignty in regards to refugee and immigration policies. Spokesperson for Harper, Dimitri Soudas, said the proposed pact is a still work in progress.
By Erica Alini - Monday, November 29, 2010 at 1:40 PM - 9 Comments
Are Canada and the U.S. sacrificing privacy in the name of security?
As stepped-up U.S. airport security has American Thanksgiving travellers boiling over pat-downs and naked-body scanners, Canada is getting ready to open up some more private records for Uncle Sam to look at. Starting next year, U.S. authorities will be able to collect personal information, which may include passport details and flight itineraries, for the roughly five million Canadians who cross U.S. airspace every year travelling to destinations such as Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean, even if they never touch U.S. soil.
On both sides of the border a new round of government peeking in the name of security is refocusing minds on an old question: do we really need to do this? Increasingly, people north and south of the border are saying no. But the backlash is also raising debate about how we can best protect our borders while also minimizing the impact on privacy rights. Neither Canada nor the U.S.—whose systems are increasingly more closely intertwined—seem close to striking the right balance, experts argue.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Wednesday, October 7, 2009 at 8:00 AM - 130 Comments
From protectionist policy to border security to environmental laws, our best friend is making our lives miserable
It has been almost two years since Stephen Harper disclosed that his cabinet was having serious discussions about what to do to “restore the special Canadian and American relationship” that he said had become “lost” in the Bush years. “What has happened is that Canada lost that special relationship with the United States. We increasingly became viewed as just another foreign country, albeit an ally, a good friend, but nevertheless a foreign country. You know, the northern equivalent of Mexico in terms of the border,” the Prime Minister told Maclean’s in an interview back in December 2007. “That isn’t just a shift in the view of the administration, that’s somewhat a shift in American public opinion as well, which concerns me.”
At the time, Harper was preoccupied with a new passport requirement that threatened tourism and trade, adding a new scale to the ongoing red-tape “thickening” of the world’s longest undefended border. “I’m certain this trend will not be reversed in the lifetime of the current American administration,” Harper said at the time. “I’m more optimistic it will be deferred later by a new administration.” But, he added, “I’m far from sure.” Continue…
By Paul Rosenzweig - Monday, October 5, 2009 at 2:15 PM - 71 Comments
Ottawa hasn’t been serious about security, says one former Homeland Security official
On June 1, for the ﬁrst time in history, Canadians and Americans crossing the border were required to show a passport (or equivalent) document. By all accounts the transition has, despite Canadian fears, proceeded with remarkably modest disruption. Canadians, however, continue to question the requirement and to object to other U.S. border security measures. As I worked (on behalf of the United States) over the past four years to prepare for these changes, most Canadians expressed a quiet dismay: “How,” they wondered, “could you be doing this to us when we are such good friends?”
After all, it has been a major sea change in the American approach to the land border with Canada. For more than 100 years, though Canadians have thought frequently and almost obsessively about the United States, most Americans have paid relatively little attention to Canada. Except for those who live close to the border (let’s all say it together: “the longest undefended border in the world”) or whose business is linked to Canadian products, most Americans don’t hold any strong opinion about Canada. You’re just like us, we think, only a little different and a little less temperate. We’re the lucky ones, because we have Florida (though each winter the residents of Ontario invade). Continue…
By Kate Lunau - Thursday, March 12, 2009 at 12:20 PM - 0 Comments
You’ll need a passport to get into the U.S. by car as of June 1
Piling into the car and heading south to Florida is the quintessential Canadian holiday. But this summer many could find themselves doing a U-turn at the border. As of June 1, Canadians will need a passport to enter the U.S. by land or water, so you’d think Passport Canada would be seeing a boom in applications. Despite the impending deadline, though, they’re actually issuing slightly fewer passports than last year.
Once the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative comes into effect on June 1 of this year, your driver’s licence won’t cut it anymore—all Canadians will be required to show a passport or other approved document to cross into the U.S. by car. Anticipating a rush on the documents, Passport Canada nearly doubled its staff over the past two years. But those extra employees don’t seem to have much to do. In November and December, demand for passports actually fell below 2007 levels. In December, an average of 16,600 passports were issued daily, almost 5,000 less than the December before, says spokesperson Jean-Sébastien Roy. In January, the agency issued about 18,000 passports a day, roughly the same as the January before.
By Andrew Potter - Sunday, December 7, 2008 at 8:51 PM - 0 Comments
About a month ago, Ian MacLeod reported on a talk given by Chris Sands…
About a month ago, Ian MacLeod reported on a talk given by Chris Sands at an intelligence and security conference in Ottawa:
An indication of where Canada-U.S. border relations – and therefore economic trade – will head under the next U.S. administration will be evident with the appointment of the anticipated new head of the Department of Homeland Security.
“There is no more important cabinet secretary to Canada today … because homeland security is the gatekeeper with its finger on the jugular affecting your ability to move back and forth across the border, the market access upon which the Canadian economy depends.”
It is will be extremely important, he [Sands] said, that the next secretary appreciates Canada’s efforts against terrorism and the “tremendous progress” the two countries have made on domestic security co-operation.
“That has to happen before we have a conversation about changing border policies. These will be new people in Washington and we need to start at the beginning, saying, ‘Canada is not a threat and we’re making every effort to make sure that we don’t foster a threat anywhere inside’,” our borders.