Friday, April 27, 2007

A limited partnership

Thanks to Peter Julian and the NDP, Canadians are in the midst of receiving a much better idea what's involved in the Security and Prosperity Partnership. But the CP reports that one of the few publicly-released details of the current discussions seems to confirm many of the worst suspicions about the process:
There's an outcry on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border over an abrupt move by American officials to drop plans to pre-clear travellers and reduce costly congestion at land crossings.

Many are viewing it as a major black mark on bilateral relations since a co-operative measure publicly championed by the White House has been unceremoniously dumped by the Homeland Security Department...

The main sticking point was Homeland's unwillingness to accept Canada's legal problem with having U.S. authorities take fingerprints of people who approach the border but decide not to cross.

Canadian law doesn't permit fingerprinting unless someone volunteers or has been charged with a crime.

Canada's assurances that it would co-operate in investigating any suspicious person who approaches the border weren't enough, said one Capitol Hill source.

"The Attorney General's office really just wants to grab as much biometric information as it can," said the source.

Canada won't consider any proposal that doesn't comply with Canadian law, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said Thursday in Ottawa.

But he's hopeful the U.S. will come back to the table.
Of course, it's for the best that Canada is publicly refusing to play along. But Day's supposed reassurance seems likely only to highlight the serious risks involved in continued discussions, rather than offering any indication that Canada will be able to maintain its sovereignty as the SPP process goes forward.

After all, it's hard to see how any government negotiating with the Bush administration could have expected anything other than a demand that Canada serve as an intelligence-gathering agency for the U.S. It's all too likely that the Harper government will eventually follow the same pattern it applied on softwood lumber, seeking to impose the U.S.' demands on Canada (by changing Canadian law to allow the demanded fingerprint collection) for the sake of getting a deal done rather than defending Canada's interests. And indeed the Cons' track record will likely provide a reason for the U.S. to think it can get away with making a firm demand of its every whim, no matter what Canadian law may say.

Needless to say, that's the kind of partnership that Canada is far better off avoiding. And hopefully the public airing of both the U.S.' current demands and the Canadian side of the story will make sure that the SPP process doesn't go any further in its current form.

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