U.S. official muses about joint border controls with Canada

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

Imagine a 'North American' customs agent inspecting your luggage as you return from your European vacation.

According to a report in the Globe and Mail, a top U.S. Homeland Security official says it could happen.

Alan Bersin, assistant secretary of international affairs at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, spoke to an Ottawa audience last week about efforts to flesh out a perimeter security deal between Canada and the United States.

Bersin was asked if he foresaw a day when both countries could agree on a bi-national institution to handle border matters.

"We have to actually get back to that mentality," the U.S. official said.

"While it will take a while — and while we develop mechanisms to respect sovereignty, but also recognize where it is we need to blend our energies — I believe that time will come."

He added: "Why should we have separate admissibility processes … if, in fact, North American security would suggest that a Canadian and a U.S. immigrations and customs official ought to be working together to clear people in Frankfurt who are coming into Canada, to clear them such that they would be able then to come seamlessly across [the joint border into] the United States."

Bersin compared his idea with that of the North American Aerospace Defence Command better known as NORAD.

NORAD is a joint U.S.-Canada command that defends the two countries from airborne threats and monitors maritime traffic off their shores.  Rotating shifts, regularly put Canadians in operational command of American airspace and vice-versa.

In the midst of perimeter security discussions, isn't having one immigration and customs office the next logical step?

The Prime Minister's Office, however, was quick to nix the idea.

"Our plan is clear that it respects each nation's sovereignty and [Bersin's] comments are not compatible with that vision," Andrew MacDougall, associate director of communications, told the Globe.