Armed U.S. border guards will soon be posted in Toronto's Union Station and other places in the country. They also might not be held accountable in a Canadian court for their actions, if they ever were to cross the line. A pre-clearance agreement was signed last month by the Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney and the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security. Armed U.S. guards will now be posted to any port, ferry terminal, rail station, or land crossing, in an effort to clear goods and passengers through immigration and customs before they cross the border. The agreement hasn't yet been made public and the details are scarce. It is alleged that U.S. guards will not be able to make arrests, but they will have powers to detain people and call local police to the scene. The U.S. guards will be able to carry a sidearm in land, rail, and marine preclearance operations, but again they will not be able to do so with air travel passengers.
Currently, U.S. customs and Border Protection (CBP) preclear passengers already at eight different Canadian airports. Police are the only ones allowed to have guns within the airport areas, so the U.S. guards in the airport will supposedly not be armed as such in those places. “If U.S. government agents who are on duty on Canadian soil are only going to be liable to be prosecuted in the United States for potential criminal acts in Canada, what does that mean for access to justice for people affected by those actions? Asks executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, Josh Paterson.
This deal is assumed to be part of a much larger plan, to more thoroughly integrate the services between Canada, United States, and Mexico. Dubbed the “North American Union,” we can see that the authorities are certainly moving slowly in this direction. The move allows for officers to cross-over the invisible border line in order to conduct their investigations and perform their occupational duties, but it also raises concerns regarding accountability for the officers. Why should American officers operating on Canadian soil be exempt from our laws? How are we supposed to feel safe if this be the case? Why are we not being afforded jurisdiction under our laws for an incident that might occur on our own sovereign territory?
The original arrangement of working together was meant to address shortcomings, to offer mutual benefit, and it was never meant to be about taking over the responsibility of policing one another's territory. This is a perimeter deal that is being phased in over several years and it was given amid promises of increased efficiency at the border and for people traveling. If the goal is increased efficiency with traveling, it seems that they are a long way off from achieving their goals and if anything, conditions only seem to be getting worse for travelers these days.
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