- The Entry/Exit Initiative is a project which is part of the 2011 Beyond the Border agreement with the United States
- The program establishes a shared system between Canada and the US Department of Homeland Security of biographical data for people crossing the border
- Now, entry and exit data will be collected and shared even for Canadian citizens
- This data can also be shared with other federal government agencies including health and tax authorities
The Toronto Star has reported that Canadian Border Services Agency officials will begin a mutual data sharing program with US Department of Homeland Security for travelers crossing the border.
Most of the information collected is already shared between Canada and the US, including travellers’
- Date of Birth
- Passport Information
The change is that the US will now provide the time, date, and location of travellers’ entry into the US to CBSA. However, no fingerprints, iris scans, or other biometric data is collected or shared.
Right now, this information will only be collected at land border crossings between Canada and the US. However, as early as mid 2014 the CBSA hopes to collect data on air travellers.
Previously, time and location of entry data was only collected for Canadian visitors, permanent residents, foreign students, and foreign workers – in other words, everyone who is not a Canadian or American citizen. Also, the information was only collected upon entry to Canada, and not upon exit from Canada. Going forward, this data will be collected and shared between the two countries even for citizens.
The official purpose of the collection and analysis of this information is to increase border security. However, the information can then be shared with other federal government agencies. The CBSA would not specify which agencies would be privy to the information, however the conclusion could be drawn that it will be used for the purpose of cracking down on immigration, citizenship, health, and tax fraud.
The CBSA did state that the ultimate goal is for Canada to create a system to track exits from the country, in addition to entries to the country which are already tracked, similar to what exists in the US. Currently, the CBSA only tracks entries to Canada which makes it very difficult to confirm how long a person has been inside the country. Any person can obtain these records (called a Record of Movement) from the CBSA by requesting them in writing, and CIC now asks applicants for PR cards, Canadian citizenship, and other immigration applications to give permission to access these records in order to make decisions on the applications.
To maintain permanent resident status, a person has to be physically present in Canada for a minimum of two out of every five years under most circumstances. Similarly, to apply for Canadian citizenship, permanent residents must be physically present in Canada for at least three out of four years.
However, many “phantom immigrants” come to Canada and get a PR card, but then return immediately to their home countries where they continue to work and live. When they want to renew their PR cards after 5 years or become Canadian citizens, they have been able to return to Canada through the US land border without being caught lying on their application because there would be no record of their absence from Canada. When there is a question about meeting the residence requirement, CIC frequently issues the Residence Questionnaire to PR card or Canadian citizenship applicants.
Access to this new data will allow Citizenship and Immigration Canada to make more accurate determinations of the residency requirement.
Taxation and provincial health insurance are also determined based on residency in Canada. Canadian citizens or residents who spend fewer than 182 days outside Canada are not expected to pay federal income tax. And, those who have provincial healthcare can lose coverage if they leave their province of residence for an extended period of time (which varies by province).
Privacy advocates have voiced concern that this initiative was implemented due to pressure from the US government.
Canada has different laws that apply to the way government agencies can collect, store, and share data collected in Canada for any person, even if they are not a Canadian citizen. But, the CBSA has advised that sharing of any information collected will be conducted within the bounds of Canadian privacy laws.
According to the Star article, the CBSA has also stated that no data collected will be shared with provincial governments or authorities. But, how can efforts be made to establish travellers’ residency in relation to their eligibility for provincial health insurance without some contact between federal border agencies and provincial health agencies?
Do you think it's fair to citizens for government agencies to share information with one another?