COPA response to Canada-U.S. border joint statement and offers help


The following is a recent joint statement issued by Public Safety Canada and the Department of Homeland Security of the U.S. COPA applauds the joint statement as a step in the right direction but states more government-to-government dialogue is required and COPA will be more than happy to assist.

The joint statement in part read:

The Honourable Peter Van Loan, Minister of Public Safety and the Honourable Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security are working in partnership to ensure we manage the border in a way that contributes to the well-being of our two countries and recognize that we can enhance our security without compromising trade.

Together, the United States and Canada create and trade over a billion dollars worth of goods and services each day. We are committed to a collaborative approach to our border, one that enhances our security and public safety while facilitating the trade and travel that connect our two countries.

Building on a longstanding relationship of cooperation and collaboration, we share the following goals and plan to meet twice a year to monitor progress:

  • Develop joint threat and risk assessments to assist the two countries in forming a common understanding of the threats and risks we face.
  • Advance initiatives that manage risk while facilitating the movement of legitimate goods and people; and enhance our ability to assist one another in times of emergency.
  • Endeavour to share information relevant to preventing people or goods that threaten our mutual safety and security from entering either nation or from crossing our shared border, consistent with our respective laws, including our privacy laws.
  • Where our national laws inhibit or prohibit such sharing, we will strive to ensure that our separate systems prevent entry of dangerous people or goods to either country or across the shared border.
  • Expand integrated law enforcement operations along our shared border and waterways to prevent criminals and/or terrorists from using the border to evade enforcement or to inflict harm on our two countries.
  • Seek to leverage resources where possible by exploring models for joint or shared border facilities, equipment, and technology, as well as for cross-designation of personnel as appropriate.

In a letter to Minister Van Loan, COPA President/CEO wrote:

While I support this cooperative security effort, I would like to emphasize the need for your Ministry and the Department of Homeland Security to, in a more coordinated fashion than has been the case to date, understand and evaluate the impact of security measures on those citizens who legitimately travel across our mutual border by private aircraft.

The Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) represents tens of thousands of Canadians who use privately-registered aircraft for personal travel and recreation.

We refer to this sector of aviation as Personal Aviation, which in Canada and the U.S. represents billions of dollars annually in business and tourism activity.

As one measure of the economic impact, last year alone the Canada Borders Service Agency provided Customs clearances for 68,000 privately registered foreign aircraft, the vast majority of which were from the U.S. Although we do not have statistics for Canadian returning aircraft, it is reasonable to conclude that approximately 100,000 Canadian and U.S. private aircraft crossed our border for business and tourism purposes.

The increasing number and complexity of security measures, particularly from the U.S. side of the border with even more in the works, are impeding legitimate movement. In recent months, additional requirements introduced by various agencies have created an onerous situation for those who travel by aircraft; far in excess of other modes of travel across the border.

From our perspective, it appears that there is insufficient coordination between agencies such that aircraft operators are required to provide the same information to more than one agency, in unique formats to suit the agencies’ systems, resulting in much frustration and opportunities for errors and consequent penalties for law abiding citizens who are just trying to comply.

I would like to draw your attention to one of the goals in the joint statement:

“Advance initiatives that manage risk while facilitating the movement of legitimate goods and people…”

While there have been attempts to achieve this goal by the agencies individually, a lack of coordination has resulted in several additional layers of bureaucracy that do anything but facilitate movement.

In our opinion, there needs to be a much better oversight of the security measures to ensure that the best combination of security and freedom for legitimate travellers can continue.

To that end, one of the initiatives that we would like you to advance is a requirement, whenever a measure is being considered, to check if the goal of the measure can be achieved by an existing measure. As well, the threat that the measure is designed to address, should be more thoroughly examined to ensure that it is a real threat and not simply perceived.

As a start point for this oversight effort, a thorough review of the existing measures should be undertaken with a view to consolidating them to simplify the border crossing process and reduce duplication.

COPA’s knowledge of this sector of aviation can be of use to you in understanding the impact of the security measures and designing practical alternatives. We are ready to assist you and ask that we be consulted on the above mentioned initiatives.