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Canada planning technological fixes to make crossing the border faster – CBC News

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Zipping through the Canada-U.S. border in 15 seconds. Facial recognition cameras at the airport to open an electronic gate. Sending your declaration to customs before you even get off the plane.

Those are just some of the changes in the works at the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) — partly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Denis Vinette, vice-president of the CBSA’s travellers branch, said the agency had been considering technological changes to the border — but the pandemic has allowed it to break through “glass ceilings” that were in the way.

When COVID-19 hit, the CBSA was confronted with a challenge, Vinette said — how could officers handle the “mounds of paper” and medical information the Public Health Agency of Canada required travellers to present?

The solution was to move to an internet cloud environment and to develop the ArriveCan app, he said.

“ArriveCan, even though we’ve got low travel volumes, has been really a game-changer,” said Vinette. “It’s allowed us to deal with information required in a new way and nimble way.”

The ArriveCan app also set the stage for a new system that has been introduced already at the Toronto and Vancouver airports. The system allows travellers returning to Canada to voluntarily send their customs declarations to CBSA before their plane even lands.

“By the time I arrive at the airport, all I’ll be doing is confirming my identity and my arrival,” Vinette said. “And CBSA and other border authorities will have decided already whether or not we have an interest in having an interaction with you.”

Once the system is rolled out, a family returning from Disney World, for example, could send the CBSA their advanced declaration and digital travel credentials.

A passenger arrives at a CBSA kiosk at Macdonald–Cartier International Airport in Ottawa on January 13, 2022. (Pascal Quillé/CBSA)

“When they arrive, they come up to the kiosk, their identity is confirmed, they grab their bags, they get into the car and then they ask themselves a question — did I just cross the border? Did I forget to talk to the border services officer?” Vinette said.

He said the CBSA plans to expand the system to other airports and to add the advanced declaration function to the ArriveCan app so that travelers can submit both health and customs declarations at the same time.

The CBSA also wants to introduce the advanced declaration system for those travelling by cruise ship and rail, and for those crossing the land border.

Vinette said that, prior to the pandemic, the CBSA had brought the average time spent speaking with a customs officer at the land border down to an average of 55 seconds. With the new technologies, Vinette said, the agency hopes to bring that average time down to 15 seconds.

Facial recognition

Canadians and Americans with NEXUS trusted traveller cards have long been able to go through customs more quickly than others. Now, the CBSA is planning to add facial recognition to NEXUS kiosks at the airport.

“You will tap your card, it will take a picture and verify it against your passport picture that’s on file and confirm your identity and ask you one question — do you have anything to declare above your entitlements?” said Vinette.

In Toronto and Winnipeg, e-gates have been installed which open automatically once your identity is confirmed.

Vinette predicts that, in the future, passengers could use their mobile phones and an app like the current pay-by-phone service to breeze through the process.

“You might have something similar where you’ve done everything on your phone, you’ve got your digital travel credential encoded on your phone and you would just swipe your phone,” Vinette said. “It will verify that the passport, the travel credential, the person are all the same. Gate opens.”

An arrival terminal at Macdonald–Cartier International Airport in Ottawa on January 13, 2022. (Pascal Quillé/CBSA)

Passengers also will still be free to opt for the traditional way of crossing the border, or to make their customs declarations verbally to an officer, Vinette said.

Some of the technological innovations the CBSA has in the works will be less visible to travelers.

The agency wants to increase its use of data analytics to help officers distinguish between low-risk individuals who cross the border frequently and those who pose a higher risk. It is also hoping that data analytics can help it detect trends and patterns that can help officers flag people who might be smuggling drugs or guns into Canada.

The Security Screening Automation project will replace manual searches for the immigration department with automated searches. Meanwhile, the CBSA has been implementing its air exit program, through which airlines provide it with information about their passengers.

Privacy concerns

Vinette said the CBSA has been working closely with the federal privacy commissioner’s office to ensure that the technological innovations it wants to implement respect privacy and IT security standards.

Vito Pilieci, spokesperson for the privacy commissioner’s office, said they have been consulted on the ArriveCan app and are about to begin a privacy impact review of CBSA’s advance declaration system.

Pilieci said the office has been back and forth with the CBSA about using facial biometric verification for NEXUS members and the CBSA’s increased use of data analytics.

Ann Cavoukian, a former Ontario privacy commissioner who is now executive director of the Global Privacy & Security by Design Centre, said it is important for travellers to consent to providing their images or information and to know how the information is going to be used by the government.

“Privacy and security have to be embedded into all of this,” she said.

For example, Cavoukian said, there is a difference between “one to one” facial recognition — where one photo is compared with one face — and “one to many” facial recognition systems used in places like the United Kingdom where someone’s face is compared with many other photos in a database.

Cavoukian said the information collected by the CBSA has to be stored securely, the data should be encrypted and it should be clear whether other government departments can access the information and the images collected.

“The potential for privacy problems is significant,” Cavoukian said.

Elizabeth Thompson can be reached at elizabeth.thompson@cbc.ca

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Malema: France should leave Africa alone

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Pretoria, South Africa- As the continent marks Africa Day today, the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), the third-largest political party in South Africa, Julius Malema, has urged France to leave Africa alone.

Malema was speaking ahead of a planned memorandum regarding the party’s assertions about the role of France in Africa to be given to the French Embassy.

“The French government and regime have played a direct role in the coup d’etat and illegal and unlawful overthrow of many governments in the African continents. We commend and appreciate the work of revolutionary anti-colonial forces that are beginning to undermine French colonialism and call on all neo-colonized people under the so-called Francophone to reject France’s colonial rulership and control,” said Malema.

At the same time, Sinawo Thambo, EFF’s national spokesperson, said the party is committed to fighting the micromanagement of African affairs by France.

“We will not accept continued micromanagement of African affairs. We are not a junior in global affairs. We are Africa and we must stand up in terms of our own affairs, in terms of all sectors, economically, culturally, politically and otherwise.

So we are confronting France because France continues to be a festering parasite within the body politics of Africa. They have continued to micromanage West Africa, they continue to determine the currencies of Francophone nations in terms of where they keep their monetary reserves. There can be no economic emancipation without the freedom and emancipation of Africa in its entirety,” said EFF’s national spokesperson.

In addition, Thambo criticized African Union (AU) citing it’s a pale shadow of what it was founded upon.

“It accommodates colonialists and land thieves like Israel. The Southern African Development Community just exists for the sake of it, wars and imperialism are allowed to fester. Africa Day is a day that we celebrate under a cloud of conquest,” added Thambo.

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Women’s groups warn Liberals against ‘downloading’ gun control to potential victims

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OTTAWA — Several women’s groups are imploring the federal Liberals to abandon the idea of creating a new regime for an endangered person to seek a court order to remove firearms from a stalker or abuser.

They say the so-called red flag provision, proposed in a bill that did not pass last year, would lead to more tragic deaths by downloading responsibility for gun-law enforcement to potential victims.

The plea comes in a letter to Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino and Women and Gender Equality Minister Marci Ien as the government prepares new gun-control legislation.

The May 16 letter is signed by Tiffany Butler, executive director of the National Association of Women and the Law, on behalf of representatives of the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund, YWCA Toronto, the Canadian Women’s Foundation, and Women’s Shelter Canada, among others.

“Firearms increase the likelihood that domestic violence will end in death,” it says. “Firearms increase the number of victims: children are often also killed and injured and, in 50 per cent of the cases of domestic violence involving firearms, the perpetrator commits suicide.”

The women’s groups object to a provision in last year’s federal gun bill — which expired upon the general election call — that proposed to create a new regime for emergency prohibition orders. Under the regime, anyone would be able to apply to a provincial court judge to prohibit another person from possessing a gun for 30 days on safety grounds.

Instead, the women’s groups support efforts to use existing means, as well as additional powers and community education, to identify risks and swiftly remove firearms from people who pose a threat to themselves or others.

“There is no support for downloading or eroding the responsibility of law enforcement and other government officials to implement gun laws,” the letter says.

“They are, and must remain, responsible and accountable for ensuring that firearms licences are denied and revoked when there are potential risks to women. Citizens or other organizations, much less potential victims, should not be expected to put themselves at risk by going to court to request action that should be immediate and within the direct responsibility of police.”

It is widely recognized that women are in greatest danger during and after separation, and shifting the onus of enforcement to women and third parties “is a guaranteed route to increased fatality,” the groups say.

The letter cites a number of shootings in which people were aware of patterns of threats and violence against women. “In some cases, police were in fact notified, but no action was taken.”

The groups call on the government to promote use of the existing “red flag” mechanisms in the system, such as the Firearms Incident Police system, and ensure they are used as intended. In particular, they say officials should:

— ensure those flags are raised by a broad range of offences and behaviours;

— encourage community members, health care professionals and others to report red flags; and

— ensure immediate and effective action is taken in response to such red flag reports.

The letter urges the government to focus on training, more rigorous screening, better enforcement, and accountability of police and other government officials responsible for safeguarding the security of women and other potential victims of gun violence.

The offices of Mendicino and Ien had no immediate comment Wednesday.

In a recent mandate letter issued to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, Mendicino said victims of intimate partner violence deserve protection.

He asked Lucki to work with chief firearms officers across Canada so that they respond without delay to calls from Canadians who have safety concerns about anyone who has access to firearms, and to work with police of jurisdiction to remove firearms quickly as needed.

Lucki was also directed to provide awareness and training on the importance of recording incidents involving dangerous behaviour and firearms. “This work will also involve implementing new procedures and educational tools in close partnership with community groups, women’s shelters and organizations, academia and more.”

The coming firearm legislation is expected to address several distinct issues. The Liberals have promised a mandatory buyback of banned guns they consider assault-style firearms, a crackdown on high-capacity firearm magazines and new efforts to combat gun smuggling.

The planned buyback would make it mandatory for owners of a wide variety of banned firearms to either sell them back to the government or have them rendered inoperable at federal expense. The list includes the Ruger Mini-14 used in the 1989 shooting at Montreal’s École Polytechnique, where 14 women were killed.

The buyback plan has won applause from gun-control advocates but criticism from some firearm owners and Conservative MPs who say it unfairly focuses on legitimate gun users.

The Liberals have also pledged to work with any province or territory that wants to ban handguns.

The women’s groups and many other organizations pushing for stronger gun laws advocate a truly national ban on handguns.

The letter to Mendicino and Ien says the federal government should not hand off regulation of firearms, including handguns, to the provinces or municipalities. “In order to ensure effective gun control in Canada, your government must proactively exercise the full extent of its powers in this area.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2022.

 

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

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Weekend storm: Quebec says some parts of province won’t get power back until Saturday

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MONTREAL — Quebec’s hydro utility says more than 80,000 customers are still without power following last weekend’s violent storm that left a trail of damage from Gatineau to Quebec City.

Hydro-Québec president Sophie Brochu and vice-president of operations and maintenance Régis Tellier told reporters the utility hopes to restore power to more than 50,000 people by the end of the day.

They say the majority of customers still in the dark should get their power back by the end of Thursday.

But people in more remote areas of the province will have to wait until Saturday — one week since the storm levelled trees and power lines across the province and in Ontario.

The deadly storm killed at least nine people in Ontario and one person in Quebec, who died after her boat capsized on the Ottawa River.

Wind gusts up to 151 kilometres per hour caused serious damage to power lines and other infrastructure across both provinces.

The hardest-hit areas in Quebec include the Laurentians, where almost 50,000 customers are still off the electricity grid, along with the Outaouais and Lanaudière regions.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 25, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

 

The Canadian Press

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