VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The federal public safety minister says concerns raised about a new information-sharing deal with the United States are ‘misleading and ‘speculative.’
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale reached out to NEWS 1130 after hearing suggestions this agreement gives US customs agents ‘unprecedented’ access to the private data of Canadians.
Goodale says the only information collected, shared and retained is information travellers are already offering whenever they present their passport at a border crossing.
“The only thing that has changed now is very basic biographical information–name, nationality, date of birth–will be transferred by the Americans back to Canada so we will have a record of when a person leaves the country,” he says.
Goodale says the information sharing is computer-based and automatic and will not affect travel times.
“No one will notice any difference at all in their waiting time at the border,” he says.
Goodale says the change is small, but vital for public safety.
“When people come in there’s a very meticulous process but not when people leave. That creates a security gap in being able to know at any given moment in time who is and who is not in the country.”
He says before this information was collected and retained, it created an undue burden on government.
“They may be trying to identify someone who long since left the country. And indeed they spend tens of millions of dollars on those administrative proceedings when there’s no need because the person has already departed the country,” Goodale explains.
Goodale says concerns access to benefits–like healthcare insurance and the Canada Pension Plan– could be affected are “untrue” and “irrelevant”.
He says the information is shared with the federal government and not the provincial government, which provides medical benefits and Canadian residency isn’t required to collect CPP.
Canada will retain the data for up to 15 years, while the US retains it for 75.
Goodale says the 15-year timeline was decided by the Standing Committee on National Security. He says the conservatives proposed 99 years, but ultimately, 15 years was supported by members from all parties as a “reasonable amount of time.”