Defence Agreements Signed With U.S.
Canada and the U.S. have finalized one agreement and renewed another to better co-ordinate civilian and military forces against threats.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay, speaking Tuesday night to a group of defence officials, diplomats and civil servants, said the two countries were expected Wednesday to renew the Civil Assistance Plan and sign off on the Combined Defence Plan.
His office confirmed Wednesday they had been signed.
The civil assistance agreement lets military personnel and equipment deploy rapidly to humanitarian events, MacKay said in notes prepared for his speech to the Permanent Joint Board on Defence.
"In the event of floods, forest fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, or to assist in the aftermath of a terrorist attack — military members from one nation will be ready to support the armed forces of the other, all supporting lead civilian agencies," he said.
The defence agreement sets out the authority and means for the two countries to approve homeland military operations against threats, as well as the process for sharing information.
"This has already been done to a certain degree, but there is still room for more integrated collaboration — domestically and bi-nationally," MacKay said.
"I think that we need to begin to consider partnerships from the ground up – from the local first responders to international organizations."
The Beyond the Border agreement signed Dec. 7, 2011, set out some of the ways Canada and the U.S. were looking to better co-ordinate security.
The wide-ranging agreement, designed to improve co-ordination to speed up border crossings and improve security, requires the two countries to look at both broad and specific ways to work better together. That will include everything from making sure border agents have radios that can communicate, to having a plan for managing traffic between Canada and the U.S. in emergencies, to preparing for international cyber security and health threats.
What you need to know about the Canada-U.S. border deal
Canada and the U.S. are each other's largest trading partners. More than $1.5-billion in goods cross the border each day. The "Action Plan on Perimeter Security and Economic Competiveness" is a road map, not a formal agreement, aimed at making trade and travel across the border easier and more efficient. <blockquote>The plan focuses on four key areas. 1. Addressing threats early 2. Trade and economic growth 3. Building on existing border enforcement programs 4. Emergency and cyber infrastructure</blockquote>
Addressing threats early
Canada and the U.S. will be making a number of changes aimed at addressing security threats as early as possible and reducing the impact on trade and travel. The two countries will: <blockquote>1. Begin tracking and recording entry and exit of travellers across the border and verifying the identity of foreigners for the purposes of immigration decision making. 2. Begin conducting joint threat assessments and sharing core information. 3. Working together on developing best practices to counter threats from violent extremists. 4. Begin aligning ground- and air-cargo security to reduce the need for re-screening. Canadian travellers will no longer have their bags screened twice when transferring flights in the United States.</blockquote>
Facilitating trade and economic growth
Canada and the U.S. will be making a number of changes aimed at facilitating trade and economic growth <blockquote>The two countries will: 1. Expand programs for low-risk travellers, such as NEXUS, to make border crossing more efficient. 2. Upgrade infrastructure at key crossings to ease congestion. 3. Begin using radio frequency identification technology to read documents automatically as vehicles approach the border. 4. Create a unified approach for preclearing goods crossing by rail, sea or road. 5. Set up a single window for companies to send required info only once. 6. Make it easier for low-value shipments to clear customs </blockquote>
Building on pre-existing border enforcement programs
Canada and the U.S. will make a number of changes to existing border enforcement programs. <blockquote>The two countries will: 1. Make Shiprider a permanent program. The Shiprider program allows U.S. and Canadian maritime law enforcement officials to operate independent of the border to help combat crime. 2. Begin testing the Shiprider model for land enforcement. This means Canadian officials may work on the U.S. side of the border and vice versa. 3. Begin using voice-over-Internet technology so law enforcement officials can communicate across the border with greater ease. </blockquote>
Enhancing emergency and cyber infrastructure
Canada and the U.S. will be making a number of changes aimed at enhancing emergency and cyber infrastructure. <blockquote>The two countries will: 1. Work together more closely on international cyber-security efforts. 2. Enhance joint readiness for health, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear events. 3. Jointly develop strategies for managing traffic on the border in the event of an emergency. </blockquote>
Sovereignty and human rights
Both governments are stressing the all the initiatives in the plan were developed under two principles. <blockquote>1. That each nation has the right to act independent of the other in accordance with their own laws and interests. 2. That both countries will endeavour to promote human rights, privacy, the rule of law and civil liberties.</blockquote>