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Ottawa to table bill to monitor Canadians’ foreign travel

Canadian border agents at work on the Canadian border at the Peace Arch Crossing in Surrey, B.C.

Simon Hayter/The Globe and Mail

The federal government is set to table legislation to enact new exit controls on Canadians leaving the country, fulfilling a promise made during Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's visit to Washington last March.

The changes will create a log of travellers that will be used by and shared among law-enforcement agencies on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border. The legislation will plug a long-standing hole in Canada's security system, giving the government a clear record of who is leaving the country.

The lack of exit controls has exposed instances in which Canada failed to track when citizens who joined terrorist groups abroad, for example, had left the country.

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At this time, Canada is the only member of the "Five Eyes" group of countries with integrated intelligence services, which also includes the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, that does not keep a record of its own citizens' foreign travel.

The bill is expected to be tabled in the House on Wednesday, but would only be passed by Parliament in the fall at the earliest.

The coming legislation has created concerns among privacy experts over the extent to which the information would be shared with government agencies such as the Canada Revenue Agency.

NPD MP Guy Caron said he will look at the limits imposed in the legislation on what U.S. authorities can do with the information, and how much they can get, pointing to the mistreatment of Maher Arar after Canadian authorities flagged him as a potential security threat.

"If it's not carefully controlled, there will be risks," he said in an interview.

Public Safety Ralph Goodale has insisted the new system will respect the privacy rights of Canadians.

"The legislation that we will introduce in the House … will lay out the parameters surrounding the use of the information, and we will insist that the use be very strictly within these terms," Mr. Goodale recently told reporters.

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He said U.S. authorities will get only basic passport information.

He said the new system will speed up several government processes, including dealing with visas and immigration issues.

"That will fill a number of gaps in our security system, such as our ability to track Amber Alerts and deal with issues such as human trafficking," Mr. Goodale added.

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