WASHINGTON — There's a glimmer of hope in the ongoing impasse between Canada and the United States over the Nexus fast-traveller program.
The Canada Border Services Agency says the two countries are exploring "shorter-term measures" to shrink a backlog of applications.
At the Thousand Islands crossing between Ontario and New York, in-person Nexus interviews are being conducted separately by U.S. and Canadian agents on opposite sides of the border.
Spokeswoman Rebecca Purdy says the pilot project, which began in late September, allows applicants to be interviewed on the Canadian side before entering the U.S. to meet with Customs and Border Protection officers.
The rest of Canada's enrolment centres, where agents from both countries would normally interview applicants together in person, remain closed due to a lack of U.S. personnel.
Purdy says the project could be expanded to include additional border crossings where demand is highest and the two agencies have the capacity to implement it.
She says 49,482 new, renewed or replacement Nexus cards were issued between Oct. 6 and Nov. 5.
"Canada and the U.S. continue discussions about the reopening of Canadian enrolment centres and are pursuing solutions to address the current backlog," Purdy said in a statement.
While Nexus enrolment centres in the U.S. have been open since April, most of the centres in Canada have remained closed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
That's because Customs and Border Protection won't send U.S. agents to staff them unless they get the same measure of legal protection agents have at existing ports of entry.
"Both Canada and the U.S. remain committed to a binational Nexus program that is accessible and expedites passage of low-risk members," Purdy said.
She confirmed that senior officials from the two agencies met in person earlier this month to discuss "options for shorter-term measures that continue to increase the number of people being issued new or renewed Nexus cards each month."
The pilot project is reminiscent of a proposal floated around the same time by Scotty Greenwood, chief executive of the Canadian American Business Council, who has been aggressively pushing for a resolution.
The council has launched a public awareness campaign at savenexus.ca that encourages Canadians to pressure their members of Parliament to reopen the enrolment centres.
The site has generated more than 1,500 emails so far, said Greenwood, who urged both agencies to be more transparent about their efforts to date.
"It's important, in my judgment, to be more forthcoming about what the next steps are," she said.
"(People fear) Nexus is hanging by a thread, and they have no idea that it's getting any better; no one has any idea how this is going to go … this is not an issue that's going to go away."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 22, 2022.
The Canadian Press