President Donald Trump meets with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, June 20, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Canada and U.S. to add preclearance options for land, sea, rail travellers

Passengers have been able to clear customs before flying to U.S. for decades at Canadian airports

A new agreement between Canada and the United States will soon allow travellers and cargo to pre-clear customs before they leave, allowing an easier movement of people and goods crossing the border.

Canadian air travellers have been able to clear customs before flying to the U.S. for decades at Canadian airports, letting them skip lineups when they land in the United States.

The two countries have agreed to add U.S. preclearance operations at Billy Bishop airport in Toronto and Jean Lesage airport in Quebec City.

The new agreement extends preclearance for travellers crossing by land, rail and sea. Early stages of planning are underway for preclearances for train passengers travelling from Montreal into New York and on the Rocky Mountaineer railway in British Columbia, which extends into Washington state.

Preclearance operations will be expanded to additional airports, and will, for the first time, allow preclearances of cargo travelling across the border.

READ MORE: U.S. searches of phones, laptops at airports rising, lawsuit says

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Donald Trump announced Thursday that they intend to implement the new preclearance agreement this summer as part of a deal that has been in the works for years.

“Delays at the border can easily disrupt operations for Canadian and American business owners, so we want to remove some of these obstacles to expand trade while keeping our people safe,” Trudeau told reporters Thursday.

“(The preclearance agreement) is going to ensure our border remains safe as we move forward with greater back-and-forth of our goods and our people. That is something that is fundamental and essential to Canadians.”

Trudeau didn’t say when travellers will see the new measures in place.

The agreement was first announced in 2015 but required a number of regulatory changes in both countries before it could be enacted. Canada passed its legislation in 2017.

While air travellers flying from several Canadian airports have long been able to clear U.S. customs before going to the United States, flyers going from the United States to Canada have not. Canada could have implemented a similar model to the one used by the U.S. but has chosen not to.

Information obtained through access-to-information law shows Canada has taken a cautious approach, weighing a number of factors including economic benefits and competitiveness, traffic flows, space constraints at airports, national-security considerations and financial implications.

Decisions on how and where the newly expanded preclearance measures will be rolled out will also be based on a “careful assessment of the benefits and costs of preclearance at specific locations for passengers and cargo,” said Scott Bardsley, a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.

Sites chosen for preclearance are voluntary and market-driven, he added.

As for when cargo preclearance will get underway, Bardsley said Canada will proceed gradually, using pilot projects. One has already been launched at the border checkpoint between Lacolle, Que., and Rouses Point, N.Y.

Canadian border officers have been pre-screening rail cargo by viewing x-ray images of northbound rail cars on the U.S. side, using imaging technology already in use by American officials who screen rail cars bound for the U.S.

As part of this pilot, American border officers capture x-ray images of the rail cars headed for Canada and then Canadian border officials flag any possible irregularities and then process the goods in Canada.

“The pilot will form the basis of proof of concept for any future cargo preclearance operations in the U.S.” says a briefing note prepared for Goodale in September 2018.

“We are currently reviewing the feasibility of possible opportunities for Canadian preclearance in the U.S. in addition to the existing pre-ratification rail pilot.”

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. In describing the current availability of customs preclearances, a previous version said services are available in the U.S. for travel to Canada but not in Canada for travel to the U.S., reversing the reality.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Alberni drag racers travel to Port McNeill for event on airport runway

More than 20 drag racers from the Alberni Valley travelled to Port… Continue reading

Learn the art of songwriting with musician John Pippus

Writing workshop, performance at Words on Fire highlight a trip to Alberni

Descend to the depths of diving history in Port Alberni

New exhibit opens at Maritime Discovery Centre

BCHL: Alberni Valley Bulldogs have been sold

Victoria company has purchased BCHL team, but will keep it in Port Alberni

Vancouver Island teen with viral video headlining first concert

Lauren Spencer-Smith, formerly of Port Alberni, has been recording new songs

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

How much do you know about the moon?

To mark the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing, see how well you know space

Body, burning truck found near northern B.C. town

RCMP unsure if the two separate discoveries are related

Couple found dead along northern B.C. highway in double homicide

Woman from the U.S. and man from Australia found dead near Liard Hot Springs

UPDATE: West Kelowna fawn euthanized, not claimed by sanctuary

Gilbert the deer has been euthanized after a suitable home was not found in time

Nanaimo-Opoly will let board game players deal Harbour City properties

Victoria’s Outset Media and Walmart Canada partner on local edition of popular game

BC Wildfire Service warns wet weather no reason to be complacent

Fire risk currently low for much of B.C. compared to same time over last two years.

Bank of Canada lowers qualifying rate used in mortgage stress tests

Home sales softened last year after the federal government introduced new stress test rules for uninsured mortgages

Port Hardy RCMP cleared in arrest that left man with broken ribs, punctured lung: IIO

The IIO noted the matter will not be referred to crown counsel for consideration of charges.

Most Read