October 19, 2012
Agreement could see U.S. border guards on Canadian soil
By Tony Ricciuto, QMI Agency
NIAGARA FALLS — Armed U.S. border guards may soon be on Canadian soil in Fort Erie, Ont., pre-inspecting commercial vehicles before they cross the Peace Bridge into America.
While details have not yet been determined, that's one of the options being considered in a preliminary agreement that has been worked out between Canada and the U.S. to speed up traffic across the Peace Bridge.
The pilot agreement was announced earlier this week by New York Sen. Charles Schumer after year-long negotiations involving the U. S. Department of Homeland Security and its Canadian counterpart, Public Safety Canada.
The Peace Bridge and another unnamed international crossing will be the scene of the pilot project that begins in late December and will run for 18 months.
Schumer called the pilot program a two-way victory for both countries because it will speed up traffic across the bridge.
The Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority is supportive of the commercial pre-inspection concept.
Chairman Sam Hoyt said they are looking "forward to its eventual testing and implementation at the Peace Bridge.”
“This innovative border management solution could potentially provide real congestion relief and help us streamline the movement of goods and people at the region's busiest international border crossing,” he said.
The bridge authority, jointly run by Canada and the U.S., has owned and operated the Peace Bridge since 1933.
Starting on Sept. 30, Canada Border Services Agency and the Department of Homeland Security began the Phase 1 pilot project of the entry/exit initiative that is outlined in the Beyond the Border Action Plan.
The two organizations will be sharing information on travellers who are not Canadian or U.S. citizens, such that a record of entry into one country could be considered as a record of exit from the other country.
The pilot program will not share information regarding Canadian or U.S. citizens.
"This sharing of entry and exit information will play a key part in bolstering border security," said Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.
Officials say the co-ordinated system will help both Canada and the U.S. identify people who stay in in either country longer than is legal, track people who have been ordered to leave a country and make sure immigration applicants are meeting their residency requirements.
Authorities say the process will be carried out within each country's privacy laws and policies.