Cross Border Pilot Program with Canada has U.S. wanting exemption from Canadian law for cross-border officers

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson
SEAN KILPATRICK / THE CANADIAN PRESS
A briefing note prepared for RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson says the debate over whose laws would apply to U.S. officers working in Canada raises important questions of sovereignty and police accountability.

Ya’ll have heard of Canada haven’t you? That country to the north of us that under NAFTA we allow more than 30,000 of their trucks to cross into the United States freely, many times driven by so-called “New Canadians”, which is a term for immigrants from middle eastern countries?

A new cross border pilot program with Canada, developed largely in secret has Canadians up in arms worried about their sovereign rights being violated if United States law enforcement officers are given carte blanche access to operate on the Canadian side of the border with immunity.

Toronto Star columnist Thomas Walkom explains the situation.

The U.S. government wants American police agents working in Canada exempted from Canadian law. If this is a surprise, it shouldn’t be.

 

The secret American demand was unearthed this week by Canadian Press reporters looking into Ottawa’s much ballyhooed border deal with the U.S.

 

Announced in 2011, the so-called North American perimeter security pact would give Washington the right to have its agents and police officers operate alongside their Canadian counterparts within Canada.

 

In return, the Americans have said they’ll make it easier for trucks to travel back and forth across the border between the two countries.

 

While details of the pact remain sparse, it appears to give American agents working in so-called “integrated teams” the power of Canadian peace officers — including the right to carry weapons and use them on Canadian soil.

 The Conservative government has said only that U.S. agents operating in Canada will be involved in “intelligence and criminal investigations” and that uniformed U.S. officers will help patrol the land border from the Canadian side.

 

Theoretically, Canadian agents could operate with similar powers in the U.S. in order to provide an appearance of reciprocity.

 

“This declaration is not about sovereignty,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said when he announced the new arrangement two years ago.

 

In fact, it very much is.

 

The latest revelation underscores this. A 2012 RCMP briefing note obtained by The Canadian Press points out that Washington and Ottawa have been at daggers drawn over whether U.S. agents and police officers who commit crimes in Canada would be subject to Canadian law.

 

The Americans prefer to maintain sole legal jurisdiction over their agents operating abroad. In Afghanistan, for example, all U.S. government soldiers and officials are accorded diplomatic status — which makes them immune from Afghan law.

 

Similar “status of forces agreements” with other nations give Washington sole or shared jurisdiction over certain kinds of offences committed by American soldiers and their dependants abroad.

 

Under a 1951 treaty, even Canada has ceded some rights over U.S. and other NATO troops operating inside this country.

 

But the 1951 treaty does give Canada the right to arrest and try NATO soldiers or their dependants who have committed non-military crimes such as murder.

 

It seems now that the U.S. wants more. According to the RCMP memo, Washington is demanding that its police agents operating in Canada be entirely exempt from Canadian criminal law.

 

A U.S. agent who, for instance, shot and killed a Canadian while on Canadian soil would not be subject to a Canadian court.

 

That Washington prefers such an arrangement should surprise no one. The U.S. treasures its judicial system and is reluctant to let its citizens be subject to the whims of foreigners.

 

This same mistrust is behind the U.S. refusal to recognize the International Criminal Court, a refusal that has put it in the same camp as China and Sudan.

 

Canada, Britain and most other democratic nations do not have the same qualms about the ICC, which is a body set up to prosecute serious offences such as war crimes.

 

So it makes sense that the U.S. wants immunity from Canadian law for its police agents operating here. From its point of view, Washington is doing Canadians a favour by agreeing to patrol their sea, land and air borders.

 

Canada, on the other hand, is a supplicant. Ottawa is desperate to keep trucks ferrying goods back and forth across Canada’s southern border. The Canadian economy is said to depend on it.

 

If the Americans are allowed to run Canada’s border security as well as theirs, Ottawa figures, they will be more likely to let those trucks keep rolling freely.

 

The federal privacy commission has already warned that the new pact will require Canada to share information with the U.S. that could lead to Canadians being tortured abroad.

 

Now the RCMP is warning that the deal will exempt foreign police officers from Canadian law.

 

Will all of this reduce Canadian sovereignty? Of course. Will this federal government balk at giving so much away? Don’t count on it.

Of course, Canadian officers, in theory would be given similar access to enforce Canadian law on the US side of the border.

Remember several years ago when the idea for an inland port of entry was floated for the Kansas City area in which NAFTA freight sent by rail from Mexico would bypass Mexican and US Customs at the southern border and be processed in Kansas City by Mexican Customs officials? Remember the cries of outrage about our sovereignty be given away, (which it wasn’t, as the KC port of entry is in full operation today). This idea with Canada goes for beyond that.

 

SOURCES: TORONTO STAR & STAR.COM
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