c-42 and north american security perimter: "canadian sovereignty has gone right out the window"

Two weeks ago, Prime Minister Stephen Harper signed a new border "security" agreement with the United States. Completed without public input or Parliamentary debate, the agreement aims to bring Canada's security "in line with" - read, under - US policy.

In Parliament, Bill C-42 - the Public Safety Act, or An Act to Amend the Aeronautics Act - would seal the deal at home, putting Canada's airspace under US control, too.

When the "no deep integration" cry was making the rounds of the Canadian blogosphere some years back, I didn't bite. (Some old posts here and here.) The fear of the US taking over Canada has a long and often well-founded history, but it seemed to me hyperbolic to claim that a trade deal would lead to Canada becoming the 51st state.

There are many reasons to oppose so-called "free" trade deals: they are usually free of labour laws and environmental protections, and they free your community of decent jobs. They are generally enacted without public consultation or debate - that is, outside of any kind of democratic structure - by governments more concerned with corporate profits than the people they supposedly serve.

But the language surrounding "no deep integration" seemed to me based more on fear than on reality. Take, for example, the "North American superhighway". Depending on who you ask, this would lead to Mexico taking over the US, or the US taking over Canada. In reality, it was a change in tariff and border laws on highways that already exist. What's more, I had only recently emigrated to Canada, and the nationalist tone of the "no deep integration" campaign struck a sour note for me.

But hyperbole and nationalism aside, I know a raw deal when I see one. And I know a Canadian Prime Minister who is a lackey to the US when I see one, too.

First, from the Council of Canadians.
Harper signs new security perimeter deal without consulting Canadians or Parliament

Late Friday afternoon, Prime Minster Stephen Harper announced he had unilaterally signed a deal with the United States government that some pundits have said is larger in scope than NAFTA.

The security perimeter deal, which Harper touted as being needed to further ease trade restrictions between the two countries, states that Canadian and U.S. governments will work “together within, at, and away from the borders of our two countries” to toughen security and promote trade.

In his comments following the announcement, Prime Minister Harper said the border plan is intended to “keep out terrorists and criminals,” “simplify regulations that hinder trade,” create “consistent inspection measures,” and to have “better management of our border” but not eliminate it.

The Council of Canadians has spoken out against this deal, which was reportedly negotiated in secret for six months with involvement from business groups, but not Parliament or public interest groups. While concrete details about the deal have been sparse, many concerns have already been raised about the implications of sharing security information with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the loss of sovereignty and trade-offs made to come to this agreement, and the degree to which any of the common measures being discussed will address the so-called “thickening” of the border.

"We've gone down this road before – it was called the Security and Prosperity Partnership – and North Americans rejected it," said Stuart Trew, Trade Justice Campaigner with the Council of Canadians. "The Harper government must disclose what terms it is negotiating with the Americans and open it to public and parliamentary scrutiny."

And on C-42, from Maclean's:
Please Uncle Sam, May We Enter Your Airspace?

We knew it was coming, but the way it’s being done is upsetting opposition politicians – not to mention raising a few ethical questions. As Canwest News Service reported this week, the federal government has quietly presented a bill in the House of Commons that would give U.S. officials final say over who can board aircraft in Canada if they are to fly through United States airspace – even though they are not landing in the U.S.

Bill C-42 allows airlines to pass on passenger information to “a foreign state” for flights over that country. The legislation is needed so that Canadian airlines comply with U.S. Homeland Security’s Secure Flight program, which requires airlines to submit personal information about passengers 72 hours before a flight’s departure. If the bill passes, passengers leaving Canada on one of the many flights that travel over U.S. airspace will have their name, birth date and gender subject to screening by U.S. officials. If you have the same name as someone on a no-fly list, you may be questioned, delayed or even barred from the flight. If your name doesn’t show up, you get your boarding pass.

Liberal transport critic Joe Volpe said Bill C-42 was introduced with no warning and no discussion with the opposition. Together, the opposition parties could vote down the legislation – a situation that could cause turmoil for air travel. “Canadian sovereignty has gone right out the window,” Liberal transport critic Joe Volpe told the Montreal Gazette in a recent interview. “You are going to be subject to American law.” NDP transport critic Dennis Bevington told Canwest that “We’re doing this without understanding what the threat assessment is. There’s no way that this is going to get an easy ride.”

Public outcry has killed bills and deals like this before. Here are a few actions you can take to add your voice.

* Sign a letter to Stephen Harper at the Council of Canadians website.

* Read the Canadian Civil Liberties Association's response to amendments to Bill C-42. The amendments don't go far enough: the bill must be killed.

* Write to your MP opposing Bill C-42. Find your MP by entering your postal code here (scroll down).

* Educate your friends and colleagues about Bill C-42. Email the Council of Canadians link asking people to sign the letter.

* Get rid of this *&@#$! government!

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