(About the author: Edward R. Myers is a freelance journalist and frequent commentator on issues of public safety and national security. He is the former Editor of Frontline Security magazine. In this analysis, he responds to a March 11 2016 article in Seaway News, Local border crossing left off list of pre-clearance checkpoints)
OTTAWA, March 17, 2016 /CNW/ - During this frenzied political season in the Trump era, coupled with the pomp of an official state visit to Washington by Canada's new Prime Minister, a big border security proponent, some concerning news could spoil the party. Who could blame border officials in both countries for remaining silent as they quietly propose a move that will effectively undermine security along the Canada-US border and enable a flood of illegal smuggling problems across the forty-ninth parallel?
While it's unlikely that the U.S. will insist that there be a giant wall built between us, what Trudeau calls two "siblings", it makes equal sense that American border officials would not knowingly construct a conduit for smuggling guns, drugs, illicit tobacco and human beings back and forth across the border. But that is exactly what is about to happen as the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) prepares to move its Cornwall, Ontario border crossing to the U.S. This decision will leave no facility for a checkpoint on Canadian soil. For the network of criminal smugglers who abuse the waterways to avoid detection, this decision is a gift that will provide them with a land-based solution to move their contraband with greater ease.
This long-brewing issue was clearly stated in an April 2010 press release from the Canadian Convenience Stores Association (CCSA), president Dave Bryans who said, "It is imperative that the port of entry remain on the north bank of the St. Lawrence River, as it has made it much more difficult for smugglers to transport contraband into Canada. Moving the port of entry back to Cornwall Island or onto the south bank of the St. Lawrence will return the situation back to one of last spring, when contraband was flooding into Canada."
Criminal elements on both sides of the border are crossing their fingers that the planned changes to position the Canadian Port of Entry in Massena, New York instead of where it is now in Cornwall will stick. If the plan goes ahead, the positioning of the Port of Entry to Canada will allow for virtually unfettered access by smugglers to Canada as there will be no checks of vehicles coming from Cornwall Island. Smugglers will only need to navigate an easy five minute boat ride exclusively within reserve lands onto the island to bypass both U.S. and Canadian border enforcement. In essence, it will open up a floodgate of smuggling problems for both countries as the risk and difficulty of crossings will be effectively eliminated.
At a time when much attention is being paid to stemming the flow of cross border contraband of all types, this move would represent a huge step backwards. The Canadian Government has invested $90 million in a surveillance project for the Cornwall area and if this merging of entry points proceeds as planned, the value of that investment will evaporate immediately. The Quebec Government has built up an extremely effective regime called Acces Tabac which has proven itself in its ability to stem the flow of contraband tobacco along with drugs and people across the border. It succeeds by integrating the intelligence of multiple local, regional and national agencies to interdict smuggling of all contraband types: tobacco, drugs, weapons, and humans.
Even the RCMP Cornwall anti-contraband task force with high-tech sensors designed to catch smugglers will be hopeless to stop the quick, short hauls as even with the quickest reaction time the smugglers will be outside of their jurisdiction by the time they get noticed. As for smugglers getting off Cornwall island with the illegal goods? Canada was nice enough to maintain road access with no checks to limit their maneuverability.
Other federal programs have been instituted over the years since 9-11 and these foundational programs are also threatened by the planned repositioning of the Canadian Port of Entry. There are a number of joint Canada/U.S. border security initiatives such as the Integrated Border Enforcement Teams (IBET) and the Canada-United States Cross-Border Crime Forum (CBCF) which are multi-Agency, highly trained and funded initiatives designed to stem the flow of contraband weapons, drugs, tobacco and humans across the Canada/U.S. border. These important national security measures have been instrumental in combatting cross border smuggling in recent years. And, like the Quebec government initiative, these programs will be strained by the change.
In Ontario, where contraband is rampant, significant strides have been made in the past few years that are starting to prove effective in stopping the smuggling activity that has threatened communities throughout the province. Queens Park is taking this seriously with a Private Members Bill being considered in the Ontario legislature that would establish a Commission of Inquiry to fully explore and report on the state of smuggling in Ontario. The Commission would be extremely effective in providing actionable information on the smuggling threats and recommend long term solutions.
Recently, the Ontario Provincial Police has established a task force dedicated to integrating the regulatory and law enforcement resources of the Province to better identify criminal smuggling behaviour and apply the provisions of the new Criminal Code sections established last year by Bill C-10. Should the planned move to Massena transpire, it will undoubtedly overwhelm the law enforcement resources now dedicated to thwart the smuggling activity and the adjacent criminal behaviour that it attracts.
As the U.S. political season generates discussions of border security, little discussion is given to security on the Northern border. The efforts of the Canada Border Security Agency, especially with regard to the Agency's willingness to work with Canadian Law Enforcement and U.S. sister agencies, seem to be effective. However, ill thought out policy decisions sometimes can threaten the effectiveness of the various efforts that have been shown to work in practice.
The decision to move the Cornwall Port of Entry to Massena is one of those ill-conceived policy moves. The ripple effect of this decision will undoubtedly negatively impact the productive results of the provincial and federal anti-smuggling measures and further overwhelm already strained Aboriginal police forces.
Any plan to abandon a border checkpoint such as in this plan borders on a lot of things – but security is not one of them.
SOURCE Edward R. Myers
For further information: Edward R. Myers: [email protected], 613-986-5756