As I mentioned previously, I’m not very comfortable with the presence of US Customs and Border Protection agents in Canadian airports. I recently found out that the situation just got much worse. In a piece for the CBC, H.M. Jocelyn, a Rutgers PhD candidate, reports on recent amendments to the Canada-United States Preclearance Agreement, the set of laws that govern the presence of USCBP at Canada-US border crossings. According to Jocelyn, the amendments effectively allow US border guards operating on Canadian soil to countermand Canadian authorities. For example:
This new authority also allows U.S. border guards to deny Canadians their right of withdrawal. Before the amendment to the law was enacted, if a person felt at all uncomfortable in the course of preclearance questioning she could simply leave, retracting her intention to cross the border with no penalty.
Now, as a result of amendments, the guard is entitled to detain her if he finds “reasonable grounds” to do so. And the request to leave in itself could be construed as reasonable grounds.
Given that USCBP is not really goverened by the US Constitution at the border, Canadians had to hope that our own constitutional protections would be there for us at border crossings. Now, it seems, we can’t count on that anymore.