OTTAWA—Canada will enhance powers to track unemployment insurance recipients who skip the country and landed immigrants who don’t spend enough time here to meet residency requirements under the new perimeter security deal with the U.S.
A former Canadian diplomat, who has dealt with negotiators of the Beyond the Border deal, says the increased muscle will come with a $1-billion price tag.
A new entry-exit system for people crossing the 49th parallel by land will be a key feature of the deal and will represent a landmark change for Canada, Colin Robertson, an ex-diplomat who has served in Washington, said.
While the federal government doesn’t keep track of who actually leaves Canada, the U.S. has been pressing Ottawa for years to start collecting that data as an added security measure.
The issue is contentious because some critics argue it poses a threat to Canadian sovereignty.
But the government will argue it’s good for Canada because of expanded powers to crackdown on bogus employment insurance recipients and fraudulent migrants who haven’t spent enough time in Canada to gain official residency status, said Robertson.
Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama will announce the deal on Wednesday, nearly 10 months after kickstarting the plan aiming to protect the continent from terrorist threats while speeding the flow of people and products between the U.S. and Canada.
Currently the Canadian border agency collects such information to a limited degree through customs declaration forms filled out by returning air travellers.
The new provisions would bring Canada in line with the U.K., Australia and the European Union.
Under the new deal, Canada will give data to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on land travellers who have exited the U.S while the U.S. will provide Canadian authorities with information on who is leaving Canada, Robertson said.
The new measures, however, will not be like those in the European Union, where once you enter one country, you can go anywhere.
“We’ll maintain different visa policies because that’s not where we’re headed. We’re not moving to full labour mobility.”