OTTAWA - Canadian and Dutch citizens would be able to visit each other's countries more easily under a plan to expand Canada's trusted traveller programs beyond North America.

Canada and the Netherlands have been negotiating a bilateral agreement that would allow their citizens to apply to each other's programs for travellers considered to be a low security risk, records obtained under the Access to Information Act show.

The initiative would be modelled on the current Nexus travellers program between Canada and the United States, the Canada Border Services Agency records say. Officials have been developing the regulatory, technological and fee-collection systems needed to implement an accord.

"Canada has had discussions with the Netherlands since 2010," Maja Graham, a border services agency spokeswoman, said in an emailed response to questions.

Graham declined to make anyone available for an interview. However, the internal agency records make it clear an agreement with the Netherlands would be the first strand of an effort to create a large web of mutual traveller programs with other countries.

Trusted traveller programs are intended to speed the flow of low-risk, known citizens across borders by ushering them into express queues, giving security officers more time to focus limited resources on those who may pose a higher risk.

In signing a much-touted perimeter security deal with the United States two years ago, Canada committed to expanding the Nexus program — which has about 700,000 members — to third countries.

Enrolment in Nexus is expected to "reach saturation" at about a million members within a few years, meaning that reaching out to other countries "is necessary to increase the level of travellers entering Canada through expedited clearance," say the notes.

A conservative estimate of potential intake into Canada's trusted traveller programs, if arrangements were to be signed with "a handful of like-minded countries," is in the range of 100,000 additional members, says a briefing note prepared for border agency president Luc Portelance.

In fact, the Canada-Netherlands agreement was expected to be in place last year, with a three-page draft agreement drawn up for consideration.

The border agency had no immediate comment on reasons for the delay.

Pursuing the agreement allows the agency to commence expansion of trusted travellers programs to third countries "on a small scale" while meeting previous commitments, the notes say.

In February 2011, European Commission officials expressed an interest in a trusted travellers initiative with Canada and offered their support for the Canada-Netherlands proposal.

Under the draft plan, citizens of Canada and the Netherlands who are members of their own country's trusted traveller program would be eligible to apply to the other's domestic program. Applicants would undergo criminal, immigration and customs checks.

In the first phase, Canadian members would be allowed to join the Dutch program.

In a second phase, Dutch citizens would first be permitted to apply to the border service agency's Canpass Air program, which currently allows permanent residents and citizens of Canada and the United States to enter Canada through nine major airports by looking into a camera that recognizes their irises as proof of identity.

At a later stage, Dutch members would be eligible to join Nexus, jointly administered by the Canadian and U.S. border agencies for speedier travel to those countries.

The border agency notes say Nexus could be used to forge trilateral agreements between Canada, the U.S. and other interested countries.

In addition, Canada is looking to existing international alliances as avenues for trusted traveller initiatives.

The notes indicate Canada might deepen its participation in an Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation program for business travellers. Canada is also part of the Five Country Conference — along with the U.S., Britain, Australia and New Zealand — whose leaders have committed to exploring a "multilateral trusted traveller framework."

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5 Regions Hit With Travel Advisories And Their Safer Alternatives
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  • Avoid: Syria's Ruins Of Palmyra

    Syria's a country with a rich history as well as a wealth of historical and archeological attractions, such as the ancient cities of Aleppo, Bosra and Damascus, the <a href="" target="_blank">ruins of Palmyra</a>, and the Ancient Villages of Northern Syria. However, after more than <a href="" target="_blank">two years of civil war</a>, many of Syria’s treasured sites – including <a href="" target="_blank">all six UNESCO World Heritage Sites</a> – have been damaged by shelling, looting and military occupation. As the security situation continues to worsen in the country, and the <a href="" target="_blank">United States considers a missile strike</a> against the Syrian regime for its alleged use of chemical weapons on civilians last month, <a href="" target="_blank">Canada advises against all travel to Syria</a>.

  • Avoid: Pyongyang, North Korea

    Last month, North Korea proclaimed it foresaw a “<a href="" target="_hplink">bright future</a>” for its tourism sector, as it revealed new plans to attract tourists year round and to offer more flights into its capital, Pyongyang. Nevertheless, <a href="" target="_blank">Canada’s advisory to avoid all travel</a> to this mysterious country won’t be going anywhere any time soon. With its nuclear weapons development program, recent missile and <a href="" target="_blank">nuclear weapons tests</a>, and (sixth) statement that the Korean Armistice Agreement is null, tension in the region is high. Those curious enough to visit the communist state – which only sees between<a href="" target="_blank"> 3,000 and 4,000 Western tourists</a> per year – will be assigned a government-approved tour guide, whom they must stay with all times.

  • Avoid: Lake Tanganyika, Burundi

    This tiny country, boarded by Tanzania, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is <a href="" target="_blank">considered one of the poorest in the world</a>, and has been plagued by ethnic conflict since its independence in 1962. Nevertheless, Burundi is rich in its breathtaking scenery with forested mountains, sandy beaches, savannah grasslands and the large freshwater lake, Tanganyika. It is also home to an array of wildlife, including elephants, hippos, crocodiles, lions and antelope. Although the country has begun to stabilize since the National Liberation Forces rebel group and the government signed a<a href="" target="_blank"> final peace agreement in March 2009</a>, you are best putting your visit to the “the heart of Africa” on hold. <a href="" target="_blank">Canadians are advised to avoid non-essential travel to Burundi </a>(and all travel to certain regions of the country) as outbreaks of violence and civil unrest continue throughout the country, and due to terrorism threats.

  • Avoid: Zakouma National Park, Chad

    This semi-desert country, bordered by Libya, Sudan, the Central African Republic, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Niger, has also been beset by internal conflict since its independence in 1960. Considered to be one of the poorest and most corrupt countries in the world, Chad is <a href="" target="_blank">ranked fifth on the Failed State Index</a>. And although it has a few unique attractions to offer visitors, such as the Ennedi Plateau in the Sahara, and the diverse and the well-protected <a href="" target="_blank">Zakouma National Park</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">Canada advises against all travel to Chad</a>, (and against non-essential travel to the capital, N’Djamena), due to potential clashes between rebels and government troops that can occur throughout the country.

  • Avoid: Karachi, Pakistan

    Pakistan has numerous historic, archaeological and natural sites to offer traveller -- sites that attracted<a href="" target="_blank"> roughly one million tourists to the country last year</a>, according to the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation. Popular attractions in Pakistan include the ancient city of Taxila, the stunning Lake Saiful Mulk, bustling Karachi, and the highest international road in the world, <a href="" target="_blank">Karakoram Highway</a>. But despite efforts to boost tourism in the country, the sector has taken numerous hits in recent years, and the number of tourists has been declining largely due to terrorism in the region and conflict in neighbouring countries. It's because of this high threat of terrorism and unpredictable security situation that<a href="" target="_blank"> Canada advises against non-essential travel to Pakistan</a>, and against all travel to certain regions of the country.

  • Instead, Try: Whitewater Rafting In New Zealand

    With its stunning and diverse landscape, New Zealand is an exciting country to visit year round and is a Mecca for adventure tourists. But <a href="" target="_blank">September marks the beginning of spring</a> in New Zealand, and the warm days, cool nights and colorful blossoms make it a particularly pleasant time to visit. Rising temperatures and melting snow create ideal conditions for a thrilling white water ride; while the slopes are still blanketed in snow and open for spring skiing and snowboarding. There is no nationwide advisory in effect for New Zealand.

  • Instead, Try: Ogasawara Islands, Japan

    Japan tirelessly continues to lure tourists back following the <a href="" target="_blank">meltdown of its nuclear reactors in Fukushima</a>. Although travellers are still advised to avoid districts or towns surrounding the power plant, the rest of Japan is safe to visit and there are no other advisories in place for the country. And what better time to visit Japan with its host of historical sites, and natural beauty than in September? The temperatures have begun to fall and the summer crowds have all but left. While spring in Japan brings beautiful cheery blossoms, autumn is famous for its vivid foliage, which is scheduled to start around the end of the month. Japan also has <a href="" target="_blank">17 World Heritage Sites</a> worth exploring, including cultural sites such as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and the inspiring Fujisan, as well as natural sites such as the<a href="" target="_blank"> Ogasawara Islands (dubbed "The Galapagos of the Orient")</a>, that are teeming with unique plant and animal life.

  • Instead, Try: Etosha National Park, Nambia

    September is dry season in Namibia -- the perfect time for a game-viewing safari. So grab your camera and head to the watering hole, where large game such as giraffes, elephants, lions and rhinos, as well as a variety of birds flock during September and there's no better place to spot these magnificent beasts than <a href="" target="_blank">Etosha National Park</a>, one of Africa’s greatest game reserves. Another popular spot in Namibia (especially for photographers) is <a href="" target="_blank">Sossusvlei</a>. Located in the Namib Desert, this giant clay pan is bounded by some of the highest red dunes in the world. Sossusvlei is particularly magical at sunset when colours are most vibrant. There is no nationwide advisory in effect for Namibia, but travellers are advised to exercise a high degree of caution due to banditry.

  • Instead, Try: Valletta, Malta

    September is one of the best months for lounging on the beach in Malta thanks to temperatures hovering around the high twenties. But no matter when you decide to visit this Mediterranean country, there's no shortage of activities to do, sites to see and delicious food to eat. Dive into the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Stroll along the blossoming Maltese countryside. Explore Malta’s rich history at sites such as the medieval walled <a href="" target="_blank">city of Mdina</a>, or <a href="" target="_blank">Valletta, Malta</a>’s capital city and a World Heritage Site with 320 monuments.

  • Instead, Try: New England, United States

    If you are looking for somewhere closer to travel to, September is a gorgeous time to explore New England. The summer crowds and heat have subsided, and if you visit earlier in the month you just might miss the invasion of autumn leaf-peepers (and the higher prices that await them). Explore Maine’s celebrated lighthouses and dine on lobster. Witness the colourful cranberry harvest in Cape Cod and<a href="" target="_blank"> its fun festivals</a>. Or if crowds and higher costs aren’t a concern for you, then head to Vermont in mid-to-late September to view its <a href="" target="_blank">world-famous foliage</a> by biking along the countryside, canoeing or kayaking on a peaceful lake. For the best view, soaring above the crowds in hot air balloon ride.