Canada ‘selling’ its sovereignty under proposed border deal with U.S.: Report

Posted by admin on Sep 15th, 2011

By Amy Chung and Jordan Press, Postmedia News, 15 Sep. 2011

OTTAWA — The author of a report criticizing Canada’s anticipated trade and security agreement with the United States says Canada is “selling” its sovereignty with no guarantee of a reduction of red tape at the border for Canadian business. On Wednesday, Gar Pardy spoke about his report for the Rideau Institute called Shared Vision or Myopia: The Politics of Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness, offering a scathing rebuke of the proposed cross-border agreement with the U.S.

The federal government says the deal, expected to be made official within weeks, will result in an increase in perimeter security and will ease trade with our neighbours to the south.

In February, Canada and the U.S. announced negotiations on the “Beyond the Border” initiative, intended to reduce red tape at the border for businesses and to improve North American security.

However, Pardy said he thinks Canada will be shortchanged under the arrangement, which he said could violate national privacy laws, while doing nothing for trade.

“You may get some easing at the border and let me tell you, I would put the emphasis you ‘may’ get some,” said Pardy, a former ambassador and CIA liaison.

“We’ve got a desperate attempt by the Canadian government to try to do something by selling basically the privacy rights of Canadians to the Americans, in order to get changes on the border.”

The scope of personal information American officials want to access, Pardy said, is what’s covered under the 28-year-old Privacy Act.

“You’re not just talking about co-operation on security matters, but integration of security matters,” he said, citing the case of Maher Arar as an example.

“Mr. Arar’s (case), that was integration. The information wasn’t even assessed in Ottawa to its validity — it was oversold to the Americans. The Americans used it and a Canadian citizen ended up in a Syrian jail for a year,” said Pardy, adding that American authorities were given two computer disks that detailed the everyday activities of Arar, down to him being a witness on a rental agreement.

“If you cannot control the information that is available about your citizens that the government collects, and you give it to another authority, another government, then, that is, you’re selling one of the great essences of sovereignty,” said Pardy.

Steve Staples, president of the Rideau Institute, said trade and security should be kept as separate issues during negotiations.

“If it’s a border issue, keep it as a border issue — don’t get into these grand deals where we think we’re going to share databases and entry and exit records in the hope our trucks are going to get over the border faster,” he said.

Pardy recommends Canada create a “single authority” to oversee the various security agencies that share information with the U.S. and ensure privacy laws aren’t violated.

Pardy also suggests the privacy commissioner review and monitor all information-sharing agreements with the United States and report annually to Parliament.

He calls on the federal government to update the Privacy Act and wants it to negotiate a separate treaty on the protection of personal information being transferred to the U.S. for national security purposes.

The conclusions are based on Pardy’s analysis of past security and trade agreements, as well as discussions with federal officials involved in current negotiations.

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