CAW President Raises Concerns about Scope of Canada- U.S. Border Deal

December 9, 2011, 2:00 PM EST


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CAW President Ken Lewenza is raising cautions about the new Canada-U.S. border deal announced this week in Washington.

Lewenza indicated that his union supports concrete measures to speed traffic flow and decrease congestion at the border.  However, he noted that most of the initiatives and pilot projects announced in the deal focus on new measures to tighten security and harmonize business regulations, and that these measures offer no direct benefit for the efficiency of border traffic.

"The crucial bottlenecks in border traffic stem from a lack of infrastructure and a lack of resources," Lewenza said.  "We need more bridges, more inspection lanes, and more border guards.  But this agreement is focused on the tighter integration of security information and policing, and the elimination of business regulations that have no relationship to the border whatsoever."

Lewenza expressed particular concern about the new Regulatory Cooperation Council, which will work to harmonize Canadian business regulations with existing U.S. laws.  While this will save money and inconvenience for corporations selling into the Canadian market, in some areas (such as food and drug safety) the process may heighten risks for Canadian consumers.

And he pointed out that the RCC's work has no direct impact on the efficiency of cross-border traffic.  "The regulations being targeted for elimination have no impact on border delays," he said.  "We do not stop trucks at the border to measure the size of soup tins."

"This is not about a supposed 'trade-off' between border efficiency and Canadian sovereignty.  This is about rewriting Canadian regulations to make them more convenient to corporations."

A deep and automatic integration of information and security practices could also pose significant risks to Canadians, said Lewenza.  He stressed that any information sharing procedures must contain "strong checks and balances" to ensure they are fully consistent with Canadian privacy standards and Charter rights.

Since the 9-11 attacks, many U.S. security and human rights practices have become increasingly incompatible with fundamental Canadian rights.  Legislative changes now permit U.S. authorities to conduct widespread routine surveillance on their own citizens, to arrest and hold suspected "terrorists" without traditional legal protections, to seize assets, and other measures unacceptable in Canada.  "Canadians must absolutely be protected against such abuses, as a number one priority of our government."  Lewenza also urged the federal government to fully implement the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into the Actions of Canadian Officials in Relation to Maher Arar before expanding security sharing arrangements with the U.S.

Lewenza said his union would support concrete initiatives to speed border traffic, including pre-screening of cargos at locations away from the border, and the expansion of accelerated processing systems already in use by the auto industry and other major shippers.

However, Lewenza noted that the biggest single contribution to faster border traffic would be the construction of the proposed second bridge at Windsor-Detroit.  Again, on this crucial issue this week's deal was silent. 

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