By Steffanie Costigan - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on February 3, 2024.
Canada Border Services Agency is launching a two-year pilot project which could result in Canadian customs officers posted in the U.S. for the first time in history.
The pilot project would be tested out over a two-year period at the tiny border crossing of Covey Hill Cannon Corners between the province of Quebec and New York State.
CBSA director general of the travelers programs Jag Johnston said in a phone interview the pilot project would be an opportunity to test pre-clearance in a land setting.
“The pilot really is for us to be able to test how pre-clearance works in the land environment. So how we would apply our authorities, how we would do our examinations of goods. And it’s an opportunity for us to test and to adjust, and to make improvements before we look at expanding a similar operation to other land entries. We’re very excited about moving forward with this initiative,” said Johnston.
Johnston said Canada and the U.S. finalized an agreement in March of 2015 to expand pre- clearance for travellers and goods but it was not until 2017, when Parliament adopted Bill-C23, that the agreement went into effect.
Due to the pandemic the initiatives were put on hold and it’s not until now that the pilot program is being implemented.
Canadian officers would be stationed at the American border post and would pre-clear travellers heading north to Canada. Under the program, they would examine people and their goods to determine if they should be allowed to keep heading to Canada.
Johnson noted the benefits this project could have to Canadian borders.
“It will really give us the opportunity to look at this new way of facilitating travellers and goods and in identifying threats before they even arrive in Canada. But also it’s also an opportunity for us to find opportunities for cost savings, especially in our small and remote ports of entry,some of which need updating through new infrastructure. So this could be an alternative to that. And finally we continue building a strong relationship with our US colleagues.”
Johnston said CBSA sees more opportunities moving forward and notes the potential impact of the program.
“We see a few opportunities; we will be processing goods and people very similar to how we do it at our existing ports of entry. But now it’s an opportunity for us to do it before an individual actually arrives in Canada, so we’ll be able to stop illegal goods, dangerous goods from entering Canada.
“It also gives us some more options to look at if we do for infrastructure that is aging, and in our smaller remote ports of entry to see if we can, find different ways of still providing services to Canadians.”
Johnston said if an individual doesn’t want to go through pre-clearance, they’re able to go to a traditional port of entry.
Johnston said Covey Hill Cannon Corners was chosen as launch site because that particular location is one of the less busy entries. She said the CBSA is keen to start this project.
“It is something that’s been in the works for some time, and so we’re keen to understand what type of benefits will materialize from pre-clearance. I think it’s a great thing for both Canada and the US,” said Johnston.
The pilot program is anticipated to start by the end of this year.
“So right now, we’re very much focused on ensuring that we are ready operationally, before we actually launched the pilot,” she said.