U.S., Canadian officials sign law enforcement pact
DETROIT — The United States and Canada adopted an agreement Tuesday to allow law enforcement authorities of both nations to share personnel and cross the border more easily to fight human, drug and weapon smuggling on waterways that separate them.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Canadian Minister of Public Safety Peter Van Loan met to formally sign the pact at a cargo facility at the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.
The agreement, known as the Shiprider program, allows officers from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and U.S. Coast Guard to ride each others' vessels for joint patrols and specific enforcement operations.
Vessels have been required to stop at the border and call the other nation's agencies for help, but the pact allows ships carrying joint enforcement teams to operate in each country's territory.
The signing gives U.S. and Canadian officials the authority to train each other's officers and establish the program permanently. During a 57-day pilot program in 2007, the joint effort led to the seizure of contraband cigarettes, marijuana and the recovery of an abducted child, Van Loan said.
The move came less than a week before new border-crossing rules take effect. The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which starts Monday, tightens documentation rules for entry into the U.S. from Canada, requiring everyone to have passports or special driver's licenses.
Napolitano said one reason for her visit was to review preparations for the new rules. She said she understands concerns the change could impede travel and trade, and she is working "to make sure the law ... is implemented as smoothly and efficiently as possible."
Napolitano said boosting security "doesn't mean closing ourselves off from other countries - it means working together as neighbors and allies." She said the agreement promotes security while preserving commerce and each nation's sovereignty.
"We have to be able to share information ... and put more security at the border, which helps us keep track of what is going back and forth," she said. "These new measures ultimately are part of our joint battle against those who would seek to harm us."
Van Loan said people who say there must be a trade-off between security and trade "are simply wrong."
"Because of the integration of our North American economies ... effective management of the border is essential to the health of both of our countries' economies," he said.
The two officials also toured port operations on both sides of the border, and Napolitano is scheduled to meet with Van Loan and other Canadian officials in Ottawa on Wednesday.