COLUMN: Pre-clearance changes at Canadian airports

Some believe these expanded powers may be contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

One of the subjects that has been raised in many recent media headlines is renewed concerns of the expanded rights of United States border agents working in the “pre-clearance” area at Canadian airports.

“Pre-clearance” applies to passengers departing Canadian airports for United States destinations.

The concerns are based on recent amendments to the laws that relate to the Canada/USA Pre-Clearance agreement.

United States border agents working in Canadian pre-clearance zones now have many of the same rights and abilities similar to what exist at U.S land-based border crossings.

Some have suggested that these expanded powers may be contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Critics have stated that “Trudeau’s government is empowering foreign officials and disempowering Canadian citizens. He is kowtowing to American imperialism.”

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From my perspective this is an area where, despite my being a member of the official opposition, I believe that the Trudeau Liberal government has created a necessary balance in order for pre-clearance to have the opportunity to work successfully.

If a citizen is going to be refused entry into the United States, for whatever reason, it is far more convenient for that refusal to occur in Canada at a pre-clearance location, as opposed to being refused entry after landing in the United States, where a subsequent deportation and related unplanned air travel costs could present a far more serious inconvenience.

In more extreme cases a citizen could be potentially held in the United States, pending deportation, creating an extremely stressful and unpleasant situation.

Pre-clearance here in Canada helps to increase efficiency and eliminate uncertainty, as well as mitigate the risks of dealing with an unexpected situation upon arrival in the United States.

For pre-clearance to work, it is understandable that the United States must have similar measures in place at all border crossings that provide entry into the country.

For these reasons, I believe the Liberal government has achieved a balance that has resulted in the expansion of the pre-clearance program.

From most of the feedback I have received, pre-clearance has proven to be an easier, less stressful way to fly across the border for those citizens who decide to visit to the United States.

My question this week:

Are you supportive of the pre-clearance program operating in Canadian airports for U.S.-bound travellers?

I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or toll free 1-800-665-8711.

Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan Similkameen Nicola. This riding includes the communities of Kelowna, West Kelowna, Peachland, Summerland, Keremeos, Princeton, Merritt and Logan Lake.

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