US Border Agents in Canada granted more Powers for Pre-Clearance Checks

A new law has been passed in Canada granting American border and customs officers more powers. These expanded authority has been given to US officers in the airports of Canada. However, civil rights activists have made claims that the move will put more travelers from Canada at risk. The legislation known as Bill C-23 delegates more powers to American border patrol and protection officers as well as US customs officers. These officers conduct preflight checks to Canadian nationals who are boarding flights destined to the United States. The expanded powers include the authority to conduct strip searches and carry firearms in Canadian airports. The US officials also have the power to detain Canadian citizens who withdraw or frustrate the procedures involved in pre-clearance.

The National Coordinator for the International Civil liberties Monitoring Group based in Ottawa, Tim McSorley said that the added authority to US officials came at the expense of the rights for Canadian travelers. The group otherwise referred to as ICMLG is a national coalition of all the civil society groups in Canada. The legislation was first tabled in the Canadian Parliament in June 2016, and just this week, the bill received the royal assent and is set to be implemented soon. According to McSorley, preclearance checks make a lot of sense. However, the national coordinator noted that with the more than 400,000 travelers who use the US-Canada border on a daily basis, the problems might escalate.

Before the enactment of the legislation, major airports allowed Canadian nationals headed for the US to clear with the procedures of border protection and US customs before boarding flights to the US. Some of these terminals include in towns like Montreal, Calgary Toronto, and Vancouver. In the western Canadian Province of British Columbia, the same procedures of pre-clearance apply for both automobile and passenger traffic in ferries. The American customs and border protection have currently deployed more than 600 of its officers in more than 15 locations in Aruba, Ireland, Canada, the UAE and the Bahamas to carry out pre-clearance procedures. The US government has insisted that the processes are critical for the sake of the American national security.

One of the commissioners of CBP, R Gil Kerlikowske, said that the pre-clearance checks enabled the federal authorities to identify and deal with threats of US national security before they entered American soil. In 2014, the US Department of Homeland Security secretary, Jeh Johnson, said that the homeland security was able to deal with threats to national security as far as possible from US borders.

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