Schumer To DHS & Canada: Arming Agents At The Peace Bridge First Could Accelerate Completion Of Shared Border Management Agreement

Canadian Government Has New Plan To Arm Customs Agents Along U.S. Border Ability Of Officials To Carry Guns On Canadian Side Of Bridge Has Been A Major Sticking Point In NegotiationsSchumer: Implementing Canadian Plan At The Peace Bridge First Could Go A Long Way Toward Completion Of The Shared Border Management Plan

With the Canadian government poised to begin arming customs agents along the U.S. Border, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on the Canadian government to implement the plan first at the Peace Bridge, one of the busiest international crossings, and urged both the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Canada to use this as a catalyst to complete the shared border management agreement. Arming Canadian border agents has been a sticking point in the negotiations to move customs activities of both governments to Fort Erie.

This is a huge step in the right direction to get shared border management up and running, Schumer said. It has been almost two years since negotiations began, and weve seen very little progress. One of the obstacles had been arming agents, so this move by the Canadians is a significant step. Because it is such a busy crossing, and completing shared border management hangs in the balance, arming agents at the Peace Bridge must be at the top of their list, added Schumer.

Among other issues holding up an agreement, arming of agents has remained a particularly crucial hurdle. Schumer hopes that if this issue can quickly be resolved, the other remaining sticking points might also be resolved in short order. Recent reports indicate that Canadas plan to arm border agents would not start for another year, with only 150 agents being armed by March 2008. Schumer fears this timeline could further delay success at the Peace Bridge, unless implementation of the plan starts there and without delay.

The shared border management plan will serve as a model for moving people and commerce securely and efficiently across the U.S.Canadian border. Negotiations continue almost two years since U.S. and Canadian officials first announced the plans to relocate both the U.S. customs facilities at the Peace Bridge to the Fort Erie (Canadian) side, and the Canadian customs facilities at Alexandria Bay to the Watertown (American) side.

Schumer has led the charge to bring the U.S. and Canadian governments together; lobbying them for years to develop a joint customs and border management plan for Northern Border crossings. Under the agreement between the U.S. and Canadian governments, it was determined that there would be two pilot sites for the plan at the Peace Bridge and Alexandria Bay. Under a shared border management plan, all of the U.S. and Canadian border facilities are located on one side of the border. The pilot at the Peace Bridge will involve the relocation of all U.S. primary and secondary border operations for both commercial and passenger traffic from Buffalo to Fort Erie, and in Alexandria Bay, Canadian border functions will be moved to the Watertown side of the border. Relocating all facilities to one side of the crossing is designed to improve the flow of information between both U.S. and Canadian security officials and to make the operations more efficient to improve traffic over the border. Shared border management allows U.S. and Canadian law enforcement agencies to work more closely together and further cooperation and allows for the further implementation of improved technology.

In a personal letter to Stockwell Day, Minister of Public Safety for the Canadian Government, Schumer wrote, I know that you share my eagerness to move forward on plans for shared border facilities at the Peace Bridge and I urge you and your staff to do whatever possible to complete the negotiations with the U.S., including the prompt arming of Canadian border agents. The Peace Bridge is one of the busiest border crossings and the people of Western New York and Southern Ontario alike deserve a bridge with a secure and efficient flow of traffic.

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