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Slaughter tries to solve key Peace Bridge issue

Rep. Louise M. Slaughter met with top Canadian officials here Thursday to try to solve a thorny issue in Canadian law that has been delaying construction of a new Peace Bridge span across the Niagara River.

Plans for the plaza on the Buffalo side have been delayed for almost two years because of attempts to include the bridge in a binational Shared Border Accord.

It refers to a 2004 proposal to shift U.S. Customs & Border Protection inspectors to Fort Erie, Ont., where there is more space, to preclear U.S.-bound vehicles, mainly trucks.

Slaughter, D-Fairport, met with Canadian Ambassador Michael Wilson and Stockwell Day, Canada's minister of public safety. She asked how Canada will deal with motorists in Canada who approach the Peace Bridge but then at the last minute decide not to cross and turn around and head away from the bridge.

The U.S. Homeland Security Department wants to send them to a secondary station in the Fort Erie plaza and make them go through a fingerprint scan.

Slaughter said Canadian officials tell her their laws would prohibit that, unless there's some probable cause.

"It's against their law," Slaughter told The Buffalo News, "In all my life, I thought it was against ours.

"They believe it goes against their charter and wouldn't hold up in court," she said. "Their law says they don't do that, unless there's a reason."

The Canadians have said they are willing to interview those who turn around at the border, bring them to the secondary inspection station, even have the Royal Canadian Mounted Police open an investigation or track them, Slaughter said.

But the Canadians resist fingerprinting anybody without a probable cause, she said.

"We really have to solve this," she said. "It's holding up the Peace Bridge."

There was no resolution at Slaughter's meeting.

Jarrod Agen, spokesman for Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, said Chertoff met earlier in the day with Day and the issue never came up.

News Staff Reporter Patrick Lakamp contributed to this report.


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