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The Globe and Mail

Tracking measures will tell Ottawa who's coming, who's going and where

Canadian border agents at work on the Canadian border at the Peace Arch Crossing on Dec. 7, 2011.

Simon Hayter/simon hayter The Globe and Mail

Soon, Ottawa will know when you leave Canada, where you are headed and with whom you are travelling.

So-called exit controls, information gathered from airlines and U.S. border agents at land crossings, will create a vast, searchable database. It's all part of a sweeping new deal with the United States to swap information about movements in and out of both countries.

The vast tracking effort, coupled with the pre-screening of "trusted" travellers, is intended to identify and focus on security threats while speeding up passage for innocents headed abroad.

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Airlines in Canada will be required to divulge passenger lists to Canadian security agencies with the names of everyone leaving the country, a practice already in place in the United States. Information gathered in Canada will be shared with U.S. agencies even for flights bound for other countries.

A far more sweeping exit-entry matching system will be introduced for land borders aimed at keeping track of the nearly one million daily crossings by car and bus.

Tracking will begin by next summer, with a pilot project at a handful of crossings where U.S. border agents will report to Canadian authorities the names and travelling companions of foreign visitors and permanent Canadian residents entering the United States. Canadian agents will reciprocate.

By summer of 2013, all foreigners and lawful residents (a category that includes landed immigrants) crossing any land border will be tracked and reported to the country of departure. A year later, the tracking will be applied to citizens of both countries.

Summer of 2014 is the target date for the two governments to share information about all movements from both countries by aircraft or across the Canada-U.S. border. Marine and rail travel will then follow.


The Nexus card permits trusted travellers to bypass long lines at customs at airports and border crossings. The plan promises to expand the program by adding more Nexus lanes at border crossings and by making it easier to get a card.

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Bi-national badges

A small group of Canadian police officers operate as armed federal law enforcement officers in the United States as part of a little-known experiment in cross-border policing that will be widely expanded. Officers would operate under Canadian command and laws on our side, U.S. command and laws on theirs.

Foreign fliers

Foreigners who travel to Canada without advance checks from Europe or other non-visa nations will soon have to fill out an electronic form before they fly. The electronic travel authorization won't apply to Canadians or Americans, but it will be a new step for travellers from other countries who don't need visitor visas, such as most Europeans.

With reports from John Ibbitson and Campbell Clark

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