Introducing the Canada-US Perimeter Security Plan

Since the announcement of the Beyond the Border plan, privacy watchdogs and concerned citizens have voiced their opinions over what seems to be unprecedented and largely unnecessary information sharing across the US-Canada border.  It’s a hefty document, and covers a wide variety of issues, from getting more US law enforcement officials working on Canadian soil, to harmonizing US standards for non-prescription drugs and beauty products, to new names for cuts of meat, and even fewer missed connections due to the elimination of a second baggage screening for passengers flying through US airports.

Although the plan is being touted as a way to speed up legitimate trade and travel, improve security in North America and align regulatory approaches between Canada and the US, detractors argue that there is so much more at stake. This article aims to take a closer look at the Beyond the Border plan.

In Brief

The Beyond the Border Declaration sets out four areas of cooperation:

  1. Addressing threats early
  2. Trade facilitation, economic growth and jobs
  3. Cross-border law enforcement
  4. Critical infrastructure and cyber-security.

Addressing Threats Early

In order to facilitate cooperation in this area, both governments have agreed to focus on the following issues and objectives:

  • Enhance shared understanding of the threat environment through joint, integrated threat assessments.
  • Share information and intelligence in support of law enforcement and national security.
  • Enhance domain awareness in the air, land and maritime environments.
  • Cooperate to counter violent extremism in both countries.
  • Develop a harmonized approach to screening inbound cargo arriving from offshore locations.
  • Mutually recognize passenger baggage screening, as new technology is deployed and implemented.
  • Conduct joint assessments and audits for plant, animal and food safety systems in third countries.
  • Establish a common approach to screening travellers.
  • Establish and verify travellers’ identities and conduct screening at the earliest possible opportunity.
  • Establish and coordinate entry and exit information systems.

Trade Facilitation, Economic Growth & Jobs

In order to facilitate cooperation in this area, both governments have agreed to focus on the following issues and objectives:

  • Adopt a common framework for trusted trader programs that will enhance member benefits.
  • Increase harmonized benefits to Nexus members.
  • Enhance facilities to support trusted trader and traveller programs.
  • Implement additional pre-inspection and pre-clearance initiatives.
  • Facilitate the conduct of cross-border business.
  • Provide traders with a single window.
  • Harmonize low-value shipment processes.
  • Bring greater public transparency and accountability to the application of border fees.
  • Coordinate border infrastructure investments and upgrade physical infrastructure at key border crossings.
  • Coordinate plans for physical infrastructure upgrades at small and remote ports of entry.
  • Implement a border wait time measurement system.
  • Implement Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology.
  • Enhance binational port operations committees.

Integrated Cross-Border Law Enforcement

In order to facilitate cooperation in this area, both governments have agreed to focus on the following issues and objectives:

  • Cooperate on national security and transnational criminal investigations.
  • Provide interoperable radio capability for law enforcement.

Critical Infrastructure and Cyber-Security

In order to facilitate cooperation in this area, both governments have agreed to focus on the following issues and objectives:

  • Execute programs and develop joint products to enhance cross-border critical infrastructure protection and resilience.
  • Protect vital government and critical digital infrastructure of binational importance.
  • Expand joint leadership on international cyber-security efforts.
  • Managing traffic in the event of an emergency.
  • Enhance collective preparedness and response capacity for health security threats.
  • Establish binational plans and capabilities for emergency management.

Concerning Developments: eTAs, IAPIs and Information Sharing

In order to fulfill the obligation to stringently screen travellers, Canadian border authorities are required to implement Electronic Travel Authorizations (eTAs). eTAs use existing Canadian rules to screen potential travellers from countries whose citizens do not require a visa. Before purchasing their ticket, travellers will be able to apply for an eTA. A small number of travelers will be denied admission into Canada for various reasons, including criminality or fraud.

Canada is also set to implement an Interactive Advance Passenger Information (IAPI) system, which will screen all passengers on international flights to Canada before boarding. Under Canadian admissibility criteria, this system will enable the government to confirm with airlines whether they are or are not authorized to board an individual.

Canadian law enforcement is also required to alert the US when foreign nationals on US security watchlists arrive in Canada in order to obtain further information on the individuals in question from the US. Both countries are also required to share information about foreign nationals who have been denied a visa or admission to either country, or who have been removed from either country for criminal reasons.

What the critics are saying…

According to Micheal Vonn, from the BC Civil Liberties Association, “[The Beyond the Border plan] is a very scary document. We’re appalled. It is essentially a wholesale adoption of US policy and standards across the board.”

One of the main adjustments introduced in the plan is a significant streamlining of cargo screening, which means that there will be new uniform standards implemented across a range of high-trade sectors and less red tape for companies trying to get their goods and people across the largest land border in the world. While this could bring the benefits of faster market access for goods and merchandise, this comes at a great cost to personal privacy, as it requires a huge handover of Canadians’ personal information to American authorities.

“Informal information sharing is what caused Canadians to be deported and sent to torture,” commented Vonn, citing the case of Maher Arar, a Syrian-Canadian who was transferred to Syrian custody and tortured after being detained during a layover at New York’s JFK airport. “It is as dire a day for Canadian rights as I have known.”

Helene Laverdiere, an NDP MP, also voiced her concerns about the plan’s impact on privacy. “It always seems that Canada is going backwards in these agreements and that is really becoming a concern in terms of Canada’s sovereignty.”


This article takes a look at the Beyond the Border Plan, a joint action plan between Canada and the United States which focuses on border security and economic development issues. The article examines each of the plan’s four areas of focus: 1) Addressing threats early; 2) Trade and economic growth; 3) Building on existing border enforcement programs; and 4) Emergency and cyber infrastructure. It also looks at some new measures the plan is set to implement, as well as concerns from the privacy community.

CIPP Exam Preparation

In preparation for the Certified Information Privacy Professional/Canada (CIPP/C) exam, a privacy professional should be comfortable with topics related to this post, including:

  • Office of the federal privacy commissioner (I.A.c.i.1.a.)
  • Privacy implications of service delivery models (III.B.f.)

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