OTTAWA – Civil libertarians and Muslim groups say minorities will face more border hassles under planned new procedures for preclearing travellers to enter the United States.
Under preclearance, travellers don’t have to pass through customs in the U.S. because they’ve already done so before departing Canada.
Currently, passengers flying to American cities through eight major Canadian airports can be precleared there by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers.
The Senate is studying legislation that would expand preclearance operations, with the aim of speeding the flow of people and goods across the border.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it’s better to be cleared for entry into the United States while in Canada, because travellers are protected under the Canadian charter of rights, as opposed to American laws.
Under provisions of the bill, travellers would be allowed to withdraw from preclearance, but a U.S. officer could ask a traveller to identify themselves or pose questions about the reason for withdrawing.
The Ottawa-based International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, the Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association, the National Council of Canadian Muslims and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada say they want changes to the bill to better protect fundamental rights.
Canadian Muslims and other minorities already experience more scrutiny, invasive searches and abusive questions as they pass through preclearance areas in Canadian airport, says Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims.
Tim McSorley of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group says Canadians should not have to give up “essential protections” in exchange for the benefits of faster travel to the U.S.