Passports for all.

AuthorKonrad, Victor


In North America since September 11, 2001 (9/11), a so-called secure border surrounding the United States has replaced the traditional border which had prevailed for more than a century and the open North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) border that emerged in the late 20th century. The NAFTA border, although enhanced with more security procedures and infrastructure to monitor and manage the vastly increased flows, was a much more permeable boundary concerned with facilitating the flow of goods across the continent, within a burgeoning North American marketplace. The new secure border is concerned primarily with managing the flow of people and contraband which present security risks. Thus, "the longest undefended border in the world" is no longer undefended. Increased numbers of border guards and increasingly stringent application of crossing rules and regulations are added to familiar technology and surveillance equipment. Drones, walls and other obstructions to flows are either evident or being discussed, while Canadian border guards, like their American counterparts, are now increasingly likely to be armed.

The costs associated with the securitization of the Canada-U.S. border are enormous, and they are growing. In the U.S., the Bush administration requested $2.2 billion for its antiterrorism programs in 2007 (1), while in Canada the initial $280 million allocated for antiterrorism capacities post 9/11 was to reach possibly $7.7 billion over a five year period. (2) Douglas Ross and Anil Hira observe that between 2001 and 2006, Canada allocated $10 billion in new spending for national security, while the 2008 budget stipulated an annual 2% increase in defense spending per year beginning in 2011-2012, providing an additional $12 billion over 20 years. In addition, the 2008 budget allocated $43 million towards Communications Security to assist with new advances in technology. (3)

Moreover, this does not include the time and money lost by business crossings at the border, or the massive inconvenience undergone by those who attempt to cross. Indeed, commercial containers still cross but trade traffic has slowed, and individual crossings have declined dramatically. The nature of these crossings has changed as confirmed by the findings of researchers at the Border Policy Research Institute. (4) Recent assessments show that trade is affected by security regimes, and that cross-border trade slowed after 9/11, with the greatest impact evident upon U.S. imports from Canada. Automobile traffic is now even more heavily concentrated at a small number of the ports-of-entry (POEs). At the POEs where sophisticated security technology is concentrated, most travel has become discretionary rather than spontaneous. Most trips now occur either within a short distance of the border or extend deeply into the other country beyond the borderlands of interaction. At the POEs serving the I-5 corridor (Blaine, Lynden, Sumas), the historic relationship between the exchange rate and the volume of travel was disrupted in the aftermath of 9/11. Travel has levelled off at volumes one-half to one-third of what they were prior to 9/11. These massive downward shifts in cross-border traffic have been most dramatic at the four largest POEs of Detroit, Buffalo, Blaine and Port Huron, as opposed to other, mainly smaller POEs where cross-border travel has not declined as precipitously, and where cross-border interaction appears to have changed less than at the large POEs in major corridors. The crossing statistics currently collected and analyzed will refine and develop these preliminary assessments as well as the numerous observations, opinions, and estimations made by a variety of border crossers, crossing guards and other stakeholders.

We have then, in the early 21st century, and particularly in the years since 9/11, a series of profound changes in border use and to border management policies and practices. Securitization agendas have developed on both sides of the border, as attempts are made to have them mesh with existing trade liberalization objectives and practices. The result is a new border reality--a landscape of fences, signs and technological apparatuses, well marked and rigorously enforced. But what will these changes mean for Canadians and Americans? And are these changes simply performative, or will these new measures ultimately redefine the "capacities, authority, and imagination of both state and self" for Canadians and Americans at the border? (5)

While such questions are too ambitious to answer in the scope of one paper, we can focus on addressing one small component of the larger issue, namely: How have the passport requirements which the new security regime demands affected the functioning of a transnational borderland space and a relatively integrated continental economy? What might be the future impact? Will Canada accept U.S.-style security measures and will the U.S. cooperate with Canadian partners?

In order to appreciate the impact of the new security regime and the resulting passport requirements, we must step backwards to review the events within the evolving security context which these developments represent. Thus, this paper first explores the development of new border security policies which have been implemented since 9/11, and situates the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) within this framework. We suggest that the WHTI is the most significant of these, at least for Canadians and potentially for Canada-U.S. relations, and it represents the capstone on an evolving Canada-U.S. security relationship which began well before 9/11. Its importance is significant, and the passport issue cannot be understood without the WHTI in the spotlight.

Next we examine how securitization in the form of new passport requirements inherent in the WHTI and even enhanced driver's licenses changes the nature of the cross-border experience, and indeed, the overall cross-border relationship. We ask what will be the legacy of the new security regime. While there have been excellent studies of the post 9/11 security situation, (6) this study looks most specifically at the most recent round of securitization inherent in the WHTI. This law is important for individual Canadians as well as Americans who live in the border regions, or who cross the border frequently. This paper examines why the WHTI is today the most significant agreement for U.S. security concerns with Canada. It asks whether the implementation of new security requirements inherent in the WHTI, which went into full force on all borders in June of 2009, has made the Canada-U.S. border "more secure." In what way will it become more secure? These questions are important. They lead us to the larger issue which will be explored in this paper: what is the effect of the passport requirement on borderlands and border regions, and where did the passport requirement come from? To understand this we begin with the concept of security post 9/11, both in terms of its implementation and institutional arrangements, and its implications for border management.

In the following section we trace the evolution of Canada-U.S. bilateral agreements and the multilateral agreements in the Americas to forge a secure border, culminating in the development of the WHTI.


Security has become the consuming focus of border relations and structure in Canada since 9/11, including the relationship between security measures and the movement of goods and people across the U.S. land, sea and air borders. While prior to 9/11, the Canada-US border marked a line which joined rather than divided the two national economies, cultures and territories, since 9/11 the function of border has been redefined. Today there is a new and direct relationship between homeland security, emergency preparedness and the variety of new instruments and agreements between Canada and the U.S. which manage the border in the 21st century. And these have been introduced incrementally, beginning in the mid-to-late 1990s. Thus, even before 9/11, security concerns about terrorism, cross-border crime and drug and people trafficking were raised. Sands argues that, indeed, it was really the Customs Moderization Act of 1992 that created the field of cooperation upon which subsequent, and post 9/11 agreements could build. (7) A case in point which highlights this pre 9/11 security relationship occurred on February 25, 1995, when Prime Minister Chretien and President Clinton announced their support of the Shared Border Accord, which had four key points:

* The promotion of international trade

* The facilitation of people movement

* The provision of enhanced protection against drugs, smuggling and the illegal and irregular movement of people

* The reduction of costs for both governments and users (8)

The Canadian Immigration and Resource Centre observes that the Shared Border Agreement, in particular, was an important document in that:

To many it seems as if the declaration would involve a merging, to a certain extent, of Canada and America's border security policies ... through steps as simple as insuring compatibility of immigration databases, to extensive integration through joint immigration processing facilities, where immigration processing of both countries are undertaken by a joint US and Canadian staff. (9) And indeed this was the case. Following the Shared Border Accord, the Canada-U.S. Security Partnership Forum (CUSP) of 1999 inched along this emerging new security relationship. The latter set the terms of post 9/11 cooperation: streamlining, harmonizing and collaborating on border policies and management; expanding cooperation to increase efficiencies at and beyond the border in areas such as customs, immigration and law enforcement; and collaborating on common threats from outside Canada...

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