Automated sensors and a climate for more information sharing could create a basis for intelligence-led enforcement along miles of unpatrolled border
OTTAWA, January 25, 2013 – As the federal government considers border security options, security expert Scott Newark in his latest Straight Talk with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute (MLI) calls for enhanced intelligence led enforcement and surveillance along the long physical border between Canada and the United States.
In hard-hitting interviews released today, Mr. Newark recommends a three-point program for Canada to put some teeth into combating activities such as illegal immigration and smuggling, especially in remote areas.
He recommends establishing a joint and integrated network of automated, analytical sensors deployed along the border. He would also allocate financial resources for border agencies for interdiction, focusing on intelligence capacities, especially in Canada.
He also calls for improving inter-agency and cross-border information sharing for law enforcement and security purposes. "No more silos," Mr. Newark states.
Sensors need to cover all of land, marine and low flying aircraft environments which are essential for the diverse Canada-US border. Combined with interagency and cross-border information sharing, Mr. Newark suggests they could be an effective tool to create the basis for intelligence-led enforcement. Unguarded roads, especially in Quebec, and a vast marine environment are particular challenges.
According to media reports in December, the government is also looking into using pilotless aircraft, or drones, to conduct surveillance off the country's coasts and in the Arctic. There is no timeline for the project, estimated to cost $1 billion but the lower cost, marine border surveillance technologies may have application there as well.
Mr. Newark says Bill C-38, the Conservative government's omnibus budget legislation, ratified the Canada-US Shiprider Agreement, a security partnership between the two countries along shared waterways.
But for reasons never explained, the agreement excludes the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), which makes no sense, Mr. Newark says.
"Even more alarming is that a government that appears to consider border security a high priority has suddenly announced that they are going to allow CBSA to cut 350 border service officer positions and eliminate 100 or more intelligence positions as well," he says.
"The key to border security, as the Canada-US Border Agreement reflects, is intelligence-led enforcement, so it's bizarre to cut 100 border intelligence positions."
He adds, "Although things are improving given the Government's clear priority on this subject, in my experience, CBSA management's historic risk-averse approach to enforcement duties will likely be the most significant challenge."
"The good news on coverage between ports of entry is that we've committed to improve it but that has to include a more pragmatic and more involved CBSA."
Today's Straight Talk interviews are the final instalments in a series theme related to immigration and national security. Click here for previous instalments.
Scott Newark's 30-year criminal justice career began as an Alberta Crown Prosecutor, with subsequent roles as Executive Officer of the Canadian Police Association, Vice Chair and Special Counsel for the Ontario Office for Victims of Crime, and as a security and policy advisor to both the Ontario and federal Ministers of Public Safety.
The Macdonald-Laurier Institute is an independent non-partisan Ottawa-based national think tank devoted to the development of Canadian public policy.
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