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Canadian Parliament takes steps toward border pre-clearance

WASHINGTON — The Canadian Parliament has approved legislation that could in the distant future, allow pre-clearance of U.S.-bound cargo on the less crowded Canadian side of the Peace Bridge.

The Canadian legislation, which passed Wednesday, matches a bill Congress approved a year ago.

Together, the two pieces of legislation allow the United States and Canada to negotiate deals that would locate border crossing facilities on the side of the border where it is most convenient.

No such agreement is anywhere in sight at the Peace Bridge, and Ron Rienas, general manager of the Peace Bridge Authority, said such a deal likely would not work there.

"The reason for that is pre-cleared trucks would get onto the bridge with un-cleared cars, creating a security vulnerability," Rienas said. "A completely sterile commercial corridor would be required, which is not possible on a bridge."

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat, has been pushing for pre-clearance for years, saying that moving border operations to the less crowded Canadian side of the Peace Bridge could reduce delays.

"I am glad that day has finally come that our Canadian neighbors have taken the important step of passing the necessary legislation," Schumer said.

Most notably, the Canadian legislation would allow American border officers to carry weapons in Canada wherever their Canadian counterparts do the same. Canadian law previously barred U.S. officers from being armed on Canadian soil, which had long been a stumbling block to pre-clearance agreements.

The bill also aims to lead to pre-clearance agreements at rail, air and water crossings.

“The Government of Canada is committed to making the Canada-United States border more efficient and secure," said Ralph Goodale, Canada's minister of public safety and emergency preparedness. "Today we are one step closer to expanding preclearance — making travel faster for Canadians and bolstering trade, while also protecting our rights.”

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