The Dec. 7 border agreement between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama requires Canada to adopt more U.S.-style security measures, and to share more information on Canadians with American state authorities. This is contrary to the interests of working people in both countries.
Obama has agreed to ask the U.S. Congress for money to speed up truck and business traffic across the border. The funding may or may not be forthcoming. In any case, the price is too high. Heightened security means a stepped up war on civil liberties. Talk of security is a distraction from the capitalist system’s real economic malaise. It’s an excuse for more spending on police and the military, and less money to meet pressing human needs, like health care, education and housing.
So, what exactly is at risk in the latest deal? It’s not “privacy” in the abstract. Remember the U.S. no-fly list? Under the deal, Ottawa has effectively agreed to adopt it. This is the list that famously targeted, among others, the late U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy. It has already barred some innocent Canadians from air travel within their own country because their planned flight paths briefly crossed the U.S. The agreement to develop common “decision processes” for air screening can only lead to more folks being stranded.
Since the deal was announced, attention has focused on a new scheme for border exit controls. But bigger dangers lie elsewhere. For instance, the agreement commits the two countries to engage in more “informal information sharing.” Canada also agrees to change its laws, if necessary, to “provide the widest measure of (intelligence) cooperation possible.”
Maher Arar knows first-hand about such intelligence cooperation. He is the Canadian citizen who was arrested by U.S. officials during a New York stopover and sent to Syria to be tortured. As a royal commission later found, Arar’s ordeal was caused by exactly the kind of informal and wide-ranging intelligence cooperation that the new deal envisions.
Since 9/11, U.S. governments, regardless their political stripe, have hurt civil liberties. Washington spies on the most mundane habits of its people, including which library books they read. In at least one case, it carried out the extrajudicial execution of an American citizen. Its agents are no longer permitted to torture people on their own. But even Obama has refused to renounce the practice of so-called extraordinary rendition—sending suspected terrorists to third countries to be tortured.
The U.S. maintains a prison camp at Guantanamo Bay that, in the tepid language of a 2010 Supreme Court judgment, has engaged in the “improper treatment” of detainees, including a Canadian, Omar Khadr, captured by U.S forces in Afghanistan at age 15.
Sweden learned about the dangers of allowing American agents to operate on its soil. In December 2001, the Swedish government decided to deport two Egyptian refugee claimants whose asylum applications were refused. The Swedish Security Police accepted a U.S. offer to provide the plane to carry out the deportation.
When the Swedish officials handed over the deportees, after having searched them according to Swedish procedure, the Americans proceeded to cut off the two men’s clothes, dress them in jump suits and hoods, medicate them, and bundle them on board. They were transported to Egypt, where they were allegedly subjected to torture.
In a 2005 report, the Swedish ombudsman concluded that Swedish officials mishandled the case. They had allowed the American officials to operate on Swedish soil in a manner contrary to Swedish custom and possibly in breach of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits torture and inhumane and degrading treatment.
U.S. law and practices violate Canadian laws and norms. More to the point, the new border agreement threatens to diminish individual liberties already under attack. In the name of universal human rights, and working-class internationalism, the deal must be undone.
> The article above was written by Barry Weisleder.