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Canada-U.S. border initiative would have allowed U.S. police to make arrests during last year's G20 summit

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Canada and the United States are close to agreeing on a joint policing program that could give U.S. security agencies substantial control of their northern border while deputizing U.S. police agents in Canada. Had the arrangement been in place during last year's G20 events, U.S. police or security officers would have had the authority to make arrests during the demonstrations, warns the Council of Canadians.

The Council is demanding that the Harper government stop its negotiations toward the creation of so-called NextGen cross-border policing units until parliament and the public has had a chance to debate the government's perimeter security action plan, which is expected to be released publicly in the coming weeks.

"What was the point in consulting Canadians on perimeter security if Harper is moving ahead regardless of what anyone has to say about it?" asks Stuart Trew, trade campaigner with the Council of Canadians.

"On his first day back in the House of Commons Harper said he would ignore the decision of farmers and ignore Canadian law by getting rid of the Canadian Wheat Board. This cross-border policing project shows he's willing to ignore serious constitutional and privacy issues by signing a deal with the U.S. without the slightest interest in what Parliament thinks,"

According to news reports this week, Public Safety Canada and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are close to finalizing an agreement that would create a legal framework for cross-designated law enforcement teams to operate on a permanent basis across the Canada-U.S. border. The framework, which will apparently be tested during a pilot project next year, would mimic on land an arrangement already in place between the RCMP and U.S. Coast Guard for patrolling shared waterways.

That "Shiprider" program, which became law during the last parliamentary session, gives the Minister of Public Safety discretion to determine what counts as a cross-border operation. A clause in the framework suggests cooperation across borders should be the norm, and that only in exceptional cases should a request from either country for cross-border permissions be denied.

"Harper designated last year's G8 summit in Huntsville as a cross-border security event so he could pay for gazebos on the public dime. Had this policing agreement been in place, that designation would have allowed US security agents operating to join in the fun of arresting protesters in Huntsville or Toronto for the G20," says Trew.

The Council of Canadians has the same concerns with the NextGen proposal as Shiprider, including the lack of a clear mechanism for holding U.S. police agents accountable for their actions in Canada. The Council also questions the necessity of the program and claims it is yet another trade off between sovereignty and minor economic benefits at the border.

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