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Homeland Security in the Post-9/11 Era: Forced Compliance Along the Northern Border

Published onMay 01, 2016
Homeland Security in the Post-9/11 Era: Forced Compliance Along the Northern Border


The border relationship between the U.S. and Canada has traditionally been very trusting, allowing for an ease of trade and travel. However, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 altered this comfortable association. Now, U.S. policy is geared toward protecting the homeland from illegal immigration and potential terrorist actions. In other words, for Americans, security concerns trump trade. At the same time, Canada remains concerned with maintaining an ease of trade and travel with the U.S. To do this, Canada has been forced to establish and implement increased security measures as outlined by U.S. officials, even though there is strong opposition from Canadian officials and stakeholders. This is largely due to the asymmetrical relationship that exists between the countries. Because of the contrast in size and power, the U.S. is able to dictate Canadian security policy at the border. This study examines the border policies since 9/11, particularly the Beyond the Border policy. Using personal interviews with officials and stakeholders in both Canada and the U.S., this study shows that the U.S. is co-opting Canada to increase its security initiatives to be in line with America concerns over homeland security.


Prior to the September 22, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, the border relationship between the United States (U.S.) and Canada generally emphasized the unimpeded flow of travel, goods and services. Those seeking to cross the border for either business or leisure found it to be relatively effortless, with little attention paid to immigration and security concerns. Canada sought to maintain this open association since the U.S. was its largest trading partner and the source of a considerable portion of Canada’s economic base. Likewise, the U.S. also maintained the friendly relationship not only for trade purposes, but as a way to maintain a stable North America.

That uncomplicated association changed significantly after the terrorist attacks in 2001. Americans became focused on preventing another deadly assault and immediately implemented changes to increase security at all borders, including their northern border. While Canada initially supported the U.S., its attention remained focused on maintaining existing trade and travel flows. To the alarm of many Canadians, the U.S. demanded that Canada also make significant changes in its border policies. The Canadians have done so, sometimes at considerable social and economic costs to their country, as a way to appease American officials and ultimately return to a more trade-friendly border.

This paper is a qualitative analysis of the border relationship between the U.S. and Canada in the post-9/11 era with a focus on the most recent agreement called Beyond  the Border.  Specifically,  we examine whether the U.S.  is able to compel Canada to adopt tougher and costly border security measures by linking security issues with future trading opportunities. Scholars have not extensively studied how the U.S. has been able to use its power to influence security policies at the border since 9/11 in an effort to reduce the threat of terrorism and crime. While it is clear that many nations, like the U.S., have retooled and reconfigured their border policies to prioritize policing—as a way to keep out people who seek to cross national borders to carry out acts of violence—the process by which this shift has occurred and the transnational efforts to police “undesirables” remains largely unstudied (Andreas, 2003a). The current analysis is an attempt to fill the gap in the literature. Our findings indicate that American officials were able to shift  border policy outcomes toward a more security-based approach because of the asymmetric relationship that exists between the two countries. This occurs despite cultural and policy differences regarding privacy, immigration, and trade issues.

Literature review: Post 9/11 security concerns at the U.S.-Canada border

Before the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, border policies between Canada and the U.S. were informal, “politically successful policy failures” (Andreas 2003a, p. 2). In essence, the border agreements appeared to provide a heightened security to deter illegal drugs and immigrants from entering the U.S. In actually, the policies did little to significantly stop either one. Instead, the agreements only served to relocate the trafficking patterns to a different site on the border (Andreas, 2003a).

The terrorist attacks brought unprecedented attention to the need to protect the homeland (Andreas, 2003b) and U.S. officials sought to make tangible border agreements with Canada that delineated authority and aligned enforcement with mutual surveillance (Konrad & Nicol, 2008). They pursued policies that would protect Americans from terrorist action and keep the homeland secure. The U.S.-passed Homeland Security Act and PATRIOT Act redefined border policies in these new, more concrete, ways (Drache, 2004). These new border security laws were seen as ways to limit territorial access to the U.S. and keep out perceived “undesirables” (Andreas, 2003b). At the same time, while the U.S. was focused on security concerns, Canadians were anxious about maintaining, or even increasing, trade with the U.S. In fact, the primary goal of Canadians remained the uninterrupted flow of people and commerce across the border (Barry, 2003; Drache, 2004; Konrad & Nicol, 2008; Molot, 2009; Bradbury & Turbeville III, 2008; Sands, 2009; Hussain, 2009; Globerman & Storer, 2009; Moens & Gabler, 2012; Hale, 2012).

While many of the new border security regulations were bilaterally conceived and deployed (Macpherson & McConnell, 2009), others were defined and passed in Congress without regard for Canada’s interests, despite the fact that American and Canadian interests “diverge strikingly” (Drache, 2004). Many of the new policies treated Canada as if it were a “satellite” nation, somehow distantly attached to the U.S. These policies often involved efforts to project American interests on Canada by applying American laws to their country, or even the systematic use of regulatory pressures to secure their compliance (Hale, 2012).

The U.S. was able to do this largely because of the asymmetric relationship between the Canada and the U.S. Tarlton (1965) explains an asymmetric relationship as one in which there are “differences in interest, character, and makeup that exist within the whole society” (p. 869). The states with more power are able to dominate the smaller states (Womack, 2003/2004). A nation’s power is dependent on the size of a state’s population, in addition to its natural resources, territory, economy, and military strength (Adamson, 2006).

The power imbalance that exists between the U.S. and Canada must be appreciated to understand the nature and dynamics of security policies that have developed (Hale, 2012). There are multiple components to the asymmetric relationship. First, the U.S. is much larger in size than Canada, meaning that it has vastly more people and economic resources. Second, the U.S., being the world’s predominant military power, has more influence within the international political system than does Canada (Hale, 2012). Third, Canada is significantly more reliant on the U.S. for trade than the other way around, having developed a long-standing trade dependence on the U.S. (Hegre, 2004; von Hlatky & Trisko, 2012).

Below, we begin by providing an outline of the methodology that we utilized, followed by a brief history of U.S.-Canada border relations. We then proceed to examine U.S.-Canada border relations since the tragic events of 9/11.


To carry out this project we conducted a series of semi-structured elite interviews with officials from both the U.S. and Canada revolving  around the American-Canadian border relationship.1 The use of elite interviews provided several methodological advantages. Elite opinion is an efficient means to gather a large amount of information to analyze the complex issue of decision-making regarding U.S.-Canada border relations. Knowledgeable stakeholders with an intimate knowledge of the issue area could offer a varied and compelling account of differing perspectives and goals regarding the U.S.-Canada border. Semi-structured elite interviews also provide considerable flexibility. That is, answers revealed by preliminary questions allow the interviewers the opportunity to adjust to new premises and shape following questions accordingly (Babbie, 2004; Leech, 2002). Moreover, field research of this nature can allow the interviewer “measures with greater validity than do survey and experimental measures” (Babbie, 2004, p. 308).

Perhaps the most significant disadvantage of elite interviews is the possibility of some interviewees appearing more credible than others and thereby influencing the understanding of the topic (Berry, 2002). Additionally, error may be introduced to the project if the researcher only attains access to particular types of respondents (Goldstein, 2002). The best approach to reduce these problems is to increase the size of the interview pool.

To compile our sample frame we identified interested stakeholders in the Beyond the Border agreement. That is, by carefully analyzing media coverage of the event we identified key American and Canadian negotiators, interest groups, and various government bureaucracies and diplomats assigned to implement and promote the agreement. Furthermore, we examined American and Canadian legislative committee assignments to identify political representatives, their staffers, and oversight committees that had a vested interest in the northern border. Finally, to expand our insight on the topic, we also identified former politicians and diplomats who were previously involved in formulating U.S.-Canada border negotiations. In the end, we were able to interview over 75 individuals representing a wide range of stake holders, including politicians, Congressional oversight committee staffers, government negotiators, senior government bureaucrats, diplomats, interest group representatives, and other stakeholders (see Appendix A for details). We believe that this relatively large interview pool helped minimize the issue of systematic error that can occur from the elite interviewing process (Berry, 2002; Goldstein, 2002).

To carry out the task of conducting elite interviews with northern border stakeholders, we devised a number of semi-structured interview templates. Each one was designed for a specific type of stakeholder—whether the interviewee was American or Canadian, a political representative, a senior government bureaucrat, or representative of an interest group. Appendix B provides an abbreviated example of an interview question guideline that was utilized during the project. The interview guide was designed to last for approximately 30-45 minutes, reflecting the general allotted time provided by the interviewees. Utilizing a semi-structured elite interviewing methodology provided the flexibility to tease out and adjust to additional themes and insights that were not anticipated prior to the interview process. As will be discussed in greater detail, our interviews identified several recurring  points of border contention between stakeholders of the two countries— these included privacy, immigration, and differences regarding the balance of trade and security issues.

History of U.S.-Canada border relations

The Canada-U.S. border—at a length of over 5,500 miles (8,850 km)—is the world’s longest international border. The two countries boast 200 years of amenable relations: developing close economic ties and becoming each other’s largest trading partner. For many years, the U.S.-Canada border was a thin, relatively weak legal boundary. But over time, the border relationship evolved in response to the practical requirements of trade, security, and sovereignty issues, as well as the changing political climate.

One of the earliest treaties that regulated trade at the border was the Reciprocity Treaty of 1854, which permitted free trade in natural products between the countries, but not in manufactured goods (Molot, 2003; Roussel, 2010; Preston, 1999; Sands, 2009). In the mid-to late 1930s, security concerns replaced trade as the foremost concern when U.S. President Roosevelt and Canadian Prime Minister King created a Permanent Joint Board of Defense (PJBD) to address the interdependent nature of security concerns between the countries (Roussel, 2010). After WWII, relations between the U.S. and Canada continued to strengthen as Canada was viewed by the Americans as a reliable source of materials needed during the Cold War era (Molot, 2003). In return, Canada received favorable economic treatment by the Americans in exchange for its willingness to contribute to continental and North Atlantic defense (Berry, 2003). The focus on international defense continued in 1958 when the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) was created as a way to establish an integrated air defense capacity.

In 1965, President Johnson and Prime Minister Pearson continued to advance the integration of the two countries by negotiating the Automotive Products Agreement that helped to eliminate tariffs on vehicles and parts. In 1989 President Bush and Prime Minister Mulroney further integrated their economies when they signed the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (CUSFTA), and then the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. These policies enhanced Canada’s access to the U.S. market and had the impact of significantly increasing Canadian economic dependency on access to the American market (Berry, 2003; Bradbury & Turbeville III, 2009). Consequently, Canada continued to lobby officials in Washington for policies to strengthen trade relations. In 1995, Prime Minister Chrétien and President Clinton signed the “Canada-U.S. Accord on Our Shared Border” (the Shared Border Accord) to increase cooperation in immigration and to increase trade (Bradbury & Turbeville III, 2009). The Shared Border Accord (SBA) made changes in the way Customs and Immigration officials cleared passengers and trucks by use of “harmonized” technology, regulations and procedures (Salter, 2010). In 1995, the two countries also signed Partners in Protection, or PIP.  This allowed private industries   to develop individualized plans with the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) about their company’s security measures, allowing products to cross the border more easily (Bradbury & Turbeville III, 2009).

While these agreements generally focused on trade, border security concerns garnered increasing attention in the U.S. In 1996, the U.S. Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act,  requiring all foreigners to register as they left or entered the U.S. Concerned about the potential for gridlock at the border, Canadian businesses, legislators, and authorities attempted to overturn the provision, but were not successful. To mitigate U.S. security fears, the “Border Vision Initiative” was signed in 1997 by President Clinton and Prime Minister Chrétien. This increased information sharing between Customs and Immigration authorities. The leaders also agreed to a Cross-Border Crime Forum to increase cooperation in dealing with organized crime groups (Salter, 2010; Preston, 1999).

Another agreement emerged as a way to improve trade, called the U.S. Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), passed in 1998. This contained $700 million for facilitating economic  growth, trade,  and the movement of people and goods between border regions. Additionally,   in 1999, the Canada-U.S. Partnership Forum, or CUSP, was established. The agreement’s “guiding principles” included: “[a] streamlining, harmonizing and collaborating on border policies and management;[b] expanding cooperation to increase efficiencies in customs, immigration, law enforcement, and environmental protections at and beyond the border; and [c] collaborating on common threats from outside the U.S. and Canada” (Seghetti, 2004, p. 4). In general terms, CUSP focused on infrastructure improvement and harmonizing regulations to facilitate trade and travel between the two countries.

The relationship between Canada and the U.S. returned to the forefront in December 1999, when U.S. Customs officers arrested Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian living illegally in Canada. Bomb-making materials were found in Ressam’s car as he attempted to enter the U.S. from British Columbia. Ressam’s arrest reinforced the need for more border security, but it also brought attention to Canada’s refugee policy, which was seen by the U.S. as weak (Berry, 2003). Despite U.S. concerns about immigration and security, Canada continued to emphasize trade over security matters. In 2000, Canada approved a 6-year, $2.65 billion (CAD) package to improve transportation infrastructure. A significant portion of that money, $665 million, was allocated for the Strategic Highway Infrastructure Program (or SHIP) to improve trans-border corridors (Bradbury & Turbeville III, 2009).

When George W. Bush became president in 2001, relations between the U.S. and Canada deteriorated again (Nossal, 2009). Early in his administration, Bush announced that he would make his first foreign visit to Mexico rather than Canada. Canadian officials were concerned that American economic and political attention was shifting from the northern to southern border (Berry, 2003). But American officials would soon shift their attention to securing both borders after that fateful day of 9/11.

Aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks

In the morning of September 11, 2001, terrorists attacked the United States. Almost immediately, U.S. officials sought to prevent additional dangerous goods and undocumented people from entering the U.S. and causing more harm to the country (Vance, 2008). They temporarily closed all transportation hubs and ports of entry at the borders, including all airports, seaports, and land borders with both Canada and Mexico. It was not long before the border was re-opened and traffic was again allowed to pass, but this time with much tighter security procedures and increased restrictions, higher fees, and more inspections (Ackleson, 2009; Canadian Chamber of Commerce, 2008).

The Americans imposed to unilateral changes to security at the Canadian border in the months after the attack. More border agents were added to carry out extensive searches of cars, trucks and cargo. Congress passed a law that required every traveler to show passports to enter the country and a new federal agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), was created to keep the homeland safe from further attacks.

Initially, many Canadians felt a sense of solidarity with the U.S. after the attacks. When American airspace was shut down, hundreds of U.S.-bound airplanes landed at Canadian airports. The passengers were provided with food and a place to stay until they were able to board airplanes again. Hundreds of Canadians left flowers, flags, notes and candles around the iron railings outside of the American Embassy in Ottawa and thousands of people gathered on Parliament Hill in a show of support (Thompson, 2003).

However,  the frame of mind began to change when President Bush, in     a speech to Congress, said that America “has no truer friend than Britain” (Bush, 2001). He later thanked many countries for their assistance, but omitted Canada. The omission was a cause for concern among Canadians, some of whom were offended and some of whom feared that Canadian border concerns regarding the flow of goods would be ignored in the future (Thompson, 2003). Tensions were also fueled by false allegations that the men responsible for the attacks entered the U.S. through Canada, giving the impression that Canada was a safe haven for terrorists. Canada was accused of having lax immigration policies because it allegedly did not fully staff the border and did not support the infrastructure needed to screen individuals coming into the United States. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft furthered this belief when, in speaking about the Ressam case, he described the Canada-U.S. border as a “transit point” for terrorists (Pardy, 2011).

Ashcroft’s statements were given more credence when a report was published by the U.S. General Accountability Office which indicated that the security threats from the border with Canada were higher than threats coming from the Mexican border (2010). Moreover, in May 2011, the American Commissioner for Customs and Border Protection gave testimony in Congress that potential terrorists were using loopholes in Canadian immigration laws to enter the U.S. and carry out illegal acts (Pardy, 2011). Relations between the two countries reached a low point when the Canadian government, under Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, supported the United Nations over the U.S. and did not participate in the invasion of Iraq. This angered the Bush administration, while garnering widespread approval in Canada (Young, 2007).

In December 2001, Canada launched an initiative to improve border security. The resulting Smart Border Declaration was an attempt to improve border security while allowing for the flow of low-risk people and goods to cross the border (Berry, 2003).2 The accompanying Action Plan provided a list of specific action items that would be taken by both governments, separately and jointly, to protect the security of the border while also allowing for trade and travel (Sands, 2009). The Action Plan required that Canada and the U.S. create similar screening criteria for travelers, develop compatible data and communications systems, and share critical information on the movement of goods and people.

Among the action items in the plan were the development of common biometric identifiers for travel documents, expedited clearance for preapproved travelers, prescreening of air passengers, compatible immigration databases, border infrastructure improvements, coordinated law enforcement operations, intelligence sharing, and an exchange of fingerprint data (Sands, 2009). Other aspects of the Action Plan included hiring additional port staff officers and Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) personnel as well as Border Patrol officers (Bradbury & Turbeville, 2009). Improvements to infrastructure and the building of joint border monitoring stations were incorporated as well (Moens & Gabler, 2012).

A key element of the Smart Border Declaration was the development of harmonized systems for expediting border inspections. These included Free and Secure Trade (FAST), CT-PAT and NEXUS (Seghetti 2004; Moens & Gabler, 2012). The FAST program is a joint program geared toward expediting border cargo clearance and reducing delays for truck drivers and carriers who are pre-approved and low-risk. Likewise, the NEXUS program is a joint CBP/ CBSA program that allows travelers who are preapproved, prescreened, and low-risk to be processed more quickly at border crossings. Applicants for the NEXUS program must be a citizen of either the U.S. or Canada (or a permanent resident of either country) and must not have been convicted of a criminal offense in any country (Bradbury & Turbeville, 2009).

Relations between the two countries were again tested in late December, 2002. An FBI alert was posted for five men of Middle Eastern descent who had allegedly entered the U.S. through Canada using false documents. This led to further allegations that Canadian border security was inadequate. Although it turned out that the alert was based on false information and was withdrawn, the events clearly showed that there were lingering perceptions that Canada’s security was lacking (Berry, 2003).

In January 2005, Canada, the U.S. and Mexico agreed to the trilateral Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP). The agreement was a plan to coordinate the security policies of the three countries under the presumption that the economy and security of the countries were linked together. Under the SPP, the three governments would establish ten working groups that would address security cooperation and ten other groups that would focus on issues of prosperity (Sands, 2009).

The SPP had three key pillars to support increased security and trade. Specifically, there would be improved security from external threats, strengthened internal security, and increased economic growth for all countries (Ackelson & Kastner, 2009). The SPP would accomplish this through increased intelligence sharing, cargo preclearance procedures, “e-passports” (biometrically enhanced documents), and “e-manifests” (which required truckers to transmit cargo information electronically to U.S. Customs and Border Protection) (Ackelson, 2009; Gilbert 2007; Ackelson & Kastner, 2009). In the long run, the SPP failed to deliver any tangible benefits and was dismantled in 2009 by President Obama (Ackelson & Kastner, 2009).3

These events set the stage for President Obama’s administration to create a new agreement with Canada. In 2011, Prime Minister Harper and President Obama met to discuss relations between the two countries. The result was a new joint agreement called Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision of Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness. This was a long-term agreement designed to “thin” the border and to “pursue a perimeter approach to security, working together within, at, and away from the borders of our two countries to enhance our security and accelerate the legitimate flow of people, goods, and services between our two countries.” (Beyond the Border, 2011).

Beyond the border

The Beyond the Border Action Plan (BTBAP) builds on the Smart Border Action Plan and the SPP. The primary goals are to facilitate the flow of goods and people across the border, and to simultaneously maintain the security of the border. Thus, the agreement seeks to make it easier to conduct trade and travel to create and sustain jobs, while at the same time making it more difficult for terrorists and criminals to threaten the security of the U.S. (Embassy of the United States, 2011). Moreover, the BTBAP is a way to reduce costs related to the border. By increasing joint operations through intelligence sharing, money can be saved by both countries (Moens & Gabler, 2012).

Under BTBAP, offshore cargo that was bound for either the U.S. or Canada will be inspected and cleared once for both countries. Additionally, the countries agreed to cooperate more fully on passenger pre-screening and the “no-board” lists for visitors seeking to enter either Canada or the U.S.. Canada agreed to update its baggage inspection technology and harmonize its screening of luggage to match systems in the U.S. Canada also agreed to use radio frequency identification technology, already utilized in the U.S. which allows vehicles to cross land borders more quickly, to share data concerning land border crossings, and to collect exit data on outbound international flights in order to create a database with the information. Data can  also be shared about those individuals who have been denied visas or those who have been denied entry because of earlier criminal convictions (Moens & Gabler, 2012).

The BTBAP has resulted in permanent changes to border policies between the U.S. and Canada. The interviewees agreed that there had been a significant move toward tighter security at the northern U.S. border. For example, a staffer of a Senate security oversight committee articulated this general consensus by noting that border security was always a concern but now, “the U.S. has a very high goal for security.” A Canadian minister described it as “a very different border” since 9/11. In fact, Canadian government officials and interest representatives overwhelmingly expressed the belief that the U.S. has gone too far in securing the border. A representative of a transportation association expressed it this way: “The U.S. was a big proponent of airline security before 9/11. The U.S. is now stark raving mad about it.”


It quickly became apparent in the interview process that many Canadian officials and stakeholders were apprehensive that many provisions of BTBAP and other increased security measures implemented at the border in the years after 9/11 would continue to obstruct trade flows. Canadian interviewees pointed out that their nation’s interests were being ignored by Americans as they pursued new homeland security regulations. Many expressed that Canada was being compelled to institute the policies as a way to ensure continued trade with the U.S.. Interviews revealed three primary issues of concern—privacy, immigration, and trade. Below these concerns are described in more detail.

Privacy concerns

Canadian and American stakeholders expressed different perspectives regarding the privacy rights of citizens and others living in their countries. For instance, one American Civil Liberty Union (ACLU) official acknowledged that Canada has stronger privacy laws and higher expectations of privacy than the U.S.. While the U.S. is willing to share personal information with many other countries for security reasons, the official explained, Canadians are more hesitant. Moreover, the U.S. tends to “spread information more widely—we share information with many groups when we get it, but Canadians do not.” According to the representative, Canada “has what is called ‘data protection authorities’ and ‘privacy officers’ who work to protect an individual’s privacy against government intrusion, which the U.S. lacks.” After 9/11, the ACLU official pointed out, “there is widespread concern in Canada about the new U.S. security policies because they involve more sharing of personal information.”

An official from Public Safety Canada agreed, and stated that under President Bush, when the primary focus was on security, many in Canada were skeptical and felt that “Canadian officials were making perilous concessions on information sharing, especially because the shared information could be used for things other than safety concerns.” This official said, “Canadians prioritize our privacy. We have a different read of privacy and security threat. The U.S. policy framework imposed on Canada is a problem.”

These concerns over privacy were echoed by representatives from a Canadian transportation group who explained that as part of the new policy for information sharing, “the U.S. is requiring Canada to provide information that they have no right to share under Canadian law. If the group shared the information, they broke Canadian laws; if they refused to share the information, they violated U.S. law. Moreover, if they sent the information, under Canadian law, they could face legal action for human rights violations.” Consequently, a former Canadian diplomat argued that Canadian citizens would balk at sharing information, stating that “Canadian citizens won’t accept wholesale shipping of records across the border. The thought of this gives Canadians the ‘shivers.’”

A representative of the Canadian Privacy Commissioner also expressed concern about privacy in the post-9/11 border policies. In fact, the individual explained that Canada has had “three major federal inquiries as to how Canada treats privacy and the new relationship with the U.S. Canadian public opinion has been shaken by the extent to which information was shared in a non-controlled fashion. This struck close to home for many Canadians. While most Canadians understand that the economic needs of the country require integration of goods and people, if it requires more exchange of information, it could potentially ‘set Canadians off.’” In the end, Canada, according to the stakeholder, has a “different read of privacy and security threat, so the policy framework imposed on Canada is a problem.”

Other representatives from Canadian civil liberties associations expressed similar beliefs. One civil liberties advocate argued that the new information sharing measures in the post-9/11 era “do not make Canada more secure, and Canadians do not support them because when Canadians share information, they lose control.” The official expressed concern because under the new policies, if travelers go through Canada, the information belongs to the U.S.. The U.S. can then give that information to a third country, even without Canada’s approval. At that point, the information is not protected and there is nothing Canada can do to protect its citizens.” In the end, the official explained, Canada is losing control of their personal information. He further alleged that the U.S. lacked respect for Canada’s independent policy choices. For example, officials in the U.S. may deny a passenger from boarding a plane, even though Canadian officials allow that person to board (even if he is not going to the U.S.). He was troubled that the U.S. is collecting biometrics on everyone, and he worried what that could lead to if the biometrics were allowed to become available to other countries.

Thus, it became apparent that privacy is one area where many Canadian interviewees felt that the U.S. is “running the show” and is seeking to modify Canada’s policy, regardless of Canadian attitudes about sharing personal information. According to one former official with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), while protecting privacy is important to Canadians, it is more important for Americans to secure the border from potential criminals and terrorists. He explained, “There are times when information needs to be shared to help law enforcement succeed at protecting the country.” This was reinforced by a DHS representative, who said that “Canada needs to reform their system because it is critical to share information with other countries to prevent terrorist attacks. They need to do it for themselves.”


Immigration policies became an important national security concern for the U.S. after 9/11, and, at the same time, a controversial new law enforcement tool for homeland security (Andreas, 2003b; Adamson, 2006). However, our interview results suggested differing views regarding immigration policies. According to one DHS official, “the countries have different rules  for immigration in that Canada allows people into their country that the U.S. would not, and vice versa.” An official from a Congressional oversight committee agreed that “Canadians have a more generous asylum policy than the U.S., and some seek to abuse this, including potential terrorists.” At the same time, a Canadian ministerial official justified Canada’s more generous immigration policies by explaining that “many Canadians want a liberal way of dealing with refugees.”

After 9/11, Americans became increasingly suspicious of foreigners entering the U.S. As a Canadian Border Patrol representative explained, “Americans now consider all non-Americans (even Canadians) as a threat to the U.S. security, which serves to justify tighter security measures at the border.” As a result, “a border that used to stress a relatively seamless flow of trade and  people is  increasingly viewed  as a security risk.” Many American officials, however, have a different explanation. A member of a Congressional oversight committee explained that “American apprehension with Canada’s immigration policies is connected to terrorists who are able to cross the border easily.” He pointed to the 1999 Christmas bomber as an example of this. This difference in the perception of security threats from foreigners was aptly summarized by a former ICE agent, who explained that “Canadians don’t have thousands of aliens coming into their country, so immigration and border safety is simply not in their mindset. Consequently, Canadians often think that no threats from foreigners exist.”

Some interviewees noted that Canada is strengthening their immigration laws to assuage American fears. One representative from a Canadian business association noted that “while the U.S. sees Canadians as being lax with immigration, Canada is trying to reform their immigration policies for their own benefit as well as for the U.S..” Yet, many American stakeholders do not believe that Canada has gone far enough. For example, one staffer from  a House oversight committee suggested that the U.S. will never be happy that Canadians are doing enough with immigration. He stated that “Canada needed to pass policies so that they did not become a ‘terrorist haven.’” Many American stakeholders continue to perceive Canada’s immigration policy as “lax” and remain wary of terrorists abusing Canadian immigration policy as a way to enter the U.S. to do harm to the American homeland.

Security versus trade

The third area where U.S. security concerns appear to trump the interests of Canadians is trade. Canadian and American stakeholders disagreed as to whether security issues or trade issues should take priority. This finding reflects the general population of the two countries. A poll taken in 2002 emphasizes this discrepancy. When adults were asked if the goal at the border should be ease of trade or improved security, 59% of Canadians selected improved border security, whereas 72% of Americans chose this. Conversely, ensuring ease of trade and travel at the border was chosen by 36% of Canadians but only 22% of Americans (Cole, Kincaid & Parkin, 2002).

Most individuals interviewed agreed that American concerns with security have resulted in intensified security on the northern border since 9/11, and that these policies will be long lasting. One former Canadian official predicted that “the border between the U.S. and  Canada will never  be like  it was prior to 9/11—Americans would never be receptive to that.” Another Canadian official agreed, saying that 9/11 “had a permanent effect on border policy because it changed the concept of a foreigner.” He explained that “Canadian agencies will need to maintain security concerns, regardless of funding concerns.” Yet another Canadian official, a former diplomat, explained that “the psychological impact of 9/11 was a game changer in Washington. Even today, American politicians are dealing with an environment that is still 9/11 centric.” He expressed it this way: “Things got turned upside down and never got straight.” A representative from the U.S. Coast Guard likewise stated that “security is now the top priority for the country and the organization.” Thus, officials from both countries acknowledge that border policies in the post-9/11 era dictate that “security trumps trade,” and the changes are likely to be permanent.

On the other hand, Canada’s foremost concern is maintaining access to the U.S. market, especially since Canada is extremely dependent on trade with the U.S. A Congressional oversight committee representative explained that “while the U.S. has a very high goal for security and sees this as the primary task, Canadians see it the other way. They want to move the flow of goods easily across the border.” These increased security measures implemented after 9/11 by the U.S. were referred to as a “thickening of the border” by former Canadian Ambassador Michael Wilson (Ackleson, 2009).

Many Canadian officials expressed concern and exasperation  regarding the continued status of a thickened border. One minister explained that “many business groups are unhappy with the current border situation and are concerned that trade and travel will be indefinitely hindered by the security policies.” A transportation group representative from Canada noted, “Any violation, regardless of severity, requires firms participating in expedited cargo clearance programs to re-apply for program approval.” The representative argued that such “excessive security measures imposed unreasonable costs at the expense of trade goals.”

Many Canadian officials expressed the fear that America’s new philosophy that “security trumps trade” would become the permanent fixture on the northern U.S. border. An American policy analyst described one problem in simple terms:

With its new security policies, the U.S. has choked off tourism in Canada. Many people who occasionally crossed into Canada (maybe once a year or less) will no longer do so because they are now required to have passports and will experience long wait times at the border. Families who have children also will not travel into Canada because passports are expensive and must be renewed every five years. Canada relies on tourism from the United States for a significant income.

This explanation was supported by a number of current and former Canadian diplomats, who unsuccessfully sought to postpone American legislation requiring passports since only a small percentage of Americans had passports.

A Canadian diplomat explained his perspective. He said,

There is now a tendency of Americans to ignore the trade side of the border relationship. While Americans want Canadians to be more security-minded, most Canadians have a different goal. Instead of focusing primarily on increased security, Canadians seek to return trade and travel policies [the ease of trade and travel] to what they were prior to 9/11. They do not feel that security concerns should trump trade.” Canadian officials unanimously  agreed  that  the  border has thickened post 9/11, which has had a severe economic impact in both Canada and the U.S.. One official expressed the view that while “there was an integrated economy prior to 9/11, that situation no longer exists.”

Who is driving the car?

Although our interview results exposed Canada’s concern for preserving cross-border trade flows, many stakeholders expressed the belief that the U.S. is compelling Canada to accentuate increased security needs. Indeed, several American officials made this clear. For example, one American policy analyst explained that the U.S. “wants Canada to become the U.S.” He expounded on this, saying that “U.S. officials want Canada to do what America wants and they are not willing to concede much to Canada.” Another U.S. official from a Congressional oversight committee said it clearly: “We want to transform Canadians into Americans.” While this particular view may be extreme, the interview results did suggest that American security interests were dominating the U.S.-Canada border debate.

While stakeholders identified a number of reasons why the two countries diverged on the balance between security and trade, unsurprisingly, the responses tended to emphasize the trauma of the 9/11 attacks. For instance, a former American ICE agent explained that “Canadians don’t think about security as Americans do because they were not exposed to the acts of terrorism and other crimes on 9/11.” Similarly, a DHS representative agreed that Canadians “did not feel the impact of the terrorism like the U.S. and lack the same feelings of urgency for a secure border.” Canadian officials and interest group representatives also acknowledged that the impact of 9/11 was very different for the two countries. One said, “While Canadians watched the events of 9/11 and felt badly for the U.S., the attacks didn’t directly affect them.”

A Canadian official intimately familiar with the BTBAP negotiating process explained the divergence in a somewhat different way. He said that “there are cultural differences between the U.S. and Canada. The U.S. has been the victim of “bad guys” and even today continues to be a significantly bigger target than Canada.” He pointed out, however, that even though Canada is not immune to violence (they have arrested dangerous people and have had terrorists in their country), they:

“do not think of security like the U.S. does. Conversely, the Americans think about it a lot. Since 9/11 most Americans are acutely aware that dangerous people exist, but Canadians don’t think that way. As such, the political climate in Washington is a border strategy that emphasizes security over trade. In the end, the different histories and cultures of the two countries affect their perceptions and the policies they prioritize.”

Consequently, although there are ardent differences between the U.S.  and Canada on issues of privacy, immigration, and trade, the U.S. expects Canada to revise their security policies to match U.S. demands. This view was specified by both American and Canadian officials. A representative of the DHS pointed out that “much of Canada’s security infrastructure is not up to American standards because it is old and needs to be replaced.” The official went on to explain, “While Canada does well with what they have, we [the U.S.] want them to do more.” This representative further indicated that while “we [the U.S.] think Canada can stop the “bad guys” at points of  entry, they do not have the capability to do that.” Areas that Canada needed to strengthen included biometrics and enrolling more people into the known-travelers program. In the end, the official agreed that America is setting security standards for Canada. As a former Canadian diplomat stated it creatively: “Canadians acknowledge the U.S. is driving the car, and Canada gave them a bigger car.”

A Canadian official complained that the U.S. is “demanding that specific equipment be placed in airports.” The official stated that the equipment is manufactured in U.S. and that U.S. citizens/agents must operate it rather than security-cleared Canadians.4 He noted that “Americans have a lot of muscle and they are not afraid to push it around.” Similar concerns were expressed by another Canadian official, who stated that “the U.S. is one of the most aggressive countries in their security requirements, and are the most outspoken when it comes to setting regulations. Americans want to regulate flights not just in the U.S., but elsewhere. The U.S. is steamrolling Canada.”

A former agent from ICE agreed that the U.S. is “suggesting” additional security policies to Canada. The agent expressed that “Canada may not be embracing change at the pace we (the U.S.) would like, but the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is open to new ideas and that on the whole, the Canadians are getting better and are open to change.” The agent described actions that Canada must take to meet U.S. standards, including “establishing stronger laws that let policing and security agencies go after the bad guys by creating stronger laws on money laundering and other crimes, and establishing a stronger asset forfeiture program.”

Canadian officials expressed similar concerns that the U.S. is dictating Canadian security policies. One official claimed,

America views Canadian security agencies as understaffed and wants to see more Canadian agents at some border crossings. Canadian diplomatic officials felt that the U.S. will ensure that Canada implements the same operating systems as the U.S. at the border, and that Canadians will participate in increased information sharing [despite Canadian concerns].

Interview responses tended to converged around the theme that America is demanding additional Canadian investment in border security because American officials believe that Canadian border security policies are currently insufficient. Numerous Canadian ministers and administrators agreed that Americans’ main fear is that Canadians cannot stop the bad guys from entering the country. A leading member of an opposition party in Canada supported this notion when he described a perception among Americans that “Canada is lax on immigration, and is therefore a threat to American security.” Another Canadian ministerial official agreed, but also partly blamed the U.S. for that misperception because U.S. politicians and officials, including former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, “falsely reported that the 9/11 hijackers came across the Canadian border. Even though untrue, many Americans continue to blame Canada for letting the terrorists into the U.S., leading to the perception that there is a need for greater security at the border.”5

Forced Compliance?

Despite differences in views concerning the necessity for more border security measures, Canada has implemented substantial initiatives geared toward strengthening its border security. Canada has allowed for more provisions for information sharing about travelers between the two nations, and has made changes to their immigration policies, making it tougher to enter the country and easier to track questionable individuals. Canada has also opted to reorganize its border law enforcement structure: in December 2003 Canada merged Canada Customs, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to form the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada to manage the border. It also restructured the Canadian military command system and tightened immigration and refugee policies to allay U.S. fears that terrorists could enter the U.S. illegally from Canada (Bradbury & Turbeville, 2009). Essentially, the Canadian government mirrored the new institutional structures and policy initiatives launched by the United States.

Canada has made these changes as a way to ease American fears that Canada is remiss in its level of security (von Hlatky & Trisko, 2012). The priority for Canadian officials has become “reassuring the United States about border security without impeding trade” (von Hlatky & Trisko, 2012, p. 6970). Canadian officials believed that they had to alleviate American security concerns as a way to convince the American government that Canada was a conscientious, security-minded country, which would then, in turn, convince Americans to minimize trade disruptions along the border. Thus, they made required changes in the hopes that Americans would agree to once again “thin the border.” An official with the Congressional oversight committee supported this perception. He said that “Canadians know their relations with the U.S. are important. The Canadians need to convince Americans that they are making significant changes in border security in order to appease them and protect trade relationships.”

Many Canadian stakeholders confirmed this deduction. For example, Canadian diplomats explained that Canada has spent a lot of money to upgrade their security structures (e.g. RFID readable, biometrics, harmonizing portals, surveillance techniques) and shared information with the U.S.  to reassure the U.S. that they could enforce security at the border.  Further,  it was necessary for Canada to “create a package that included both security and trade policies.” The interviewee went on to say, “As soon as the U.S. sees this commitment from Canada, they will be comfortable.” Moreover, the officials explained, “Once Canada gets the security measures put into place, the physical crossing will be made easier.” Another Canadian Diplomat said simply, “This is what we have to do.” Likewise, another Canadian manufacturing association official echoed this by saying that the “Canadians have to do a PR campaign to convince Americans that Canada can do it. They need to convince the U.S. that Canada is doing what it can to alleviate concerns about terrorism.” This sentiment was echoed by another Canadian business official, who explained that “not only has the U.S. put more money into security measures, Canada has also done so.” But he also noted that there is a need   to convince the U.S. of that: “Once the U.S. sees that Canada has made multiple security changes, they will be more comfortable and once again open up trade and travel.” But he observed that Canada “may need to do more to increase their security policies to make the U.S. feel safe.”

An asymmetric relationship

A significant reason why Canada is “jumping on board” with American demands to improve their border security really boils down to asymmetry (Hale, 2012; von Hlatky & Trisko, 2012). The relationship between the two countries is uneven, both in population size and economic status. Canada’s foreign and international economic policies are highly dependent on the United States. They are much more dependent upon trade with the U.S. than vice-versa. As a Congressional oversight committee member commented, “They [Canada] rely on trade with the U.S. and certainly don’t want to see a repeat of a border shut down. So they’ve made the required changes.”

On the other hand, American foreign policies are more diversified. They have more global alliances and relationships. Americans tend to put their relations with Canada relatively low on their list of priorities. Some interviewees in Washington have even referred, lightheartedly, to the relationship as “weeding the garden” or “condominium association issues,” implying that they take little time, effort, or attention.

Thus, Canada is complying with United States’ demands for increased security measures at the border as a way to protect a free flow of trade (Andreas, 2003b). Canada has been forced to establish and implement increased security measures as outlined by U.S. officials, despite reluctance from Canadian officials and stakeholders. Because of the asymmetrical relationship between the countries, the U.S. is able to impose their interests on Canada. While many Canadians seek to return to a robust trade relationship (Molot, 2009), they feel that “security has trumped trade” in deference to American priorities.

Mitchell (1991) helps us understand that the asymmetry between the U.S. and Canada has influenced the course of post-9/11 border policy. The U.S., as the dominant party, has been able to reduce Canada’s role in defining border policy. Although Canada has been given symbolic participation, the U.S. has been able to define the policy. The asymmetry has also affected Canada’s ability to put their goals on the political agenda, particularly with regard to privacy and immigration. Many in Canada agree that the U.S. has forced their will on the Canadian people, largely ignoring their demands for increased privacy and more lenient immigration rules. A representative from the ACLU described it in starker terms: “In the end, we [the U.S.] bully them [Canada] to do what we want, but they are unable to bully us to do what they want.”


It has been over ten years since the 9/11 attacks. In that time, the easy relationship between the U.S. and Canada that once existed has changed dramatically. Priorities for both countries shifted, and the previous “low-maintenance approach to managing the border is over” (Young, 2008, p. 48). Now, the U.S. is motivated by protecting the country from further terrorist action rather than easy trade and travel. As the Congressional oversight representative said, “In the time immediately after the attacks, security trumped everything for the U.S.”

Conversely, many Canadian elites would like to see trade trump security, or at least see the two concerns balanced. A Canadian transportation official explained that they would like to “get Americans to re-write their policies so that they can meet their security goals while at the same time  maintain trade.” Indeed, multiple Canadian officials expressed the need for the U.S. to see trade and security as one issue together. One Canadian minister argued that it is not one or the other anymore, but rather, security and economy are the same thing. A strong security policy will complement a strong trading relationship.

It is doubtful that the U.S. will give up its security focus in the future.  The DHS official made this clear: “While trade is certainly important, we can’t have trade without security. There can’t be too much security—there is nothing bigger or more important than the security of the country.” The U.S. will undoubtedly continue to dominate Canadian security policy at the border, using its size and economic strength to force Canada to comply with its demands. Canadian officials will need to back U.S. objectives on border security and immigration in return for comfortable trade arrangements (Barry, 2003; Dobson, 2002).

As we approach the future, it is essential that officials from both countries launch new programs that encompass both the United States’ imperative for homeland security as well as Canada’s need to maintain trade (Andreas, 2003a). Officials will need to create agreements on critical issues in order to continue to have an effective border (Farson, 2006; Andreas, 2003a). A Canadian minister supported this notion when he said that the idea is “now to have both security and trade, because they can coexist.” He also warned that the U.S. “has to show a commitment to trade because if the economy isn’t working, we won’t have money to increase security. Where Canada has a commitment to address security issues of U.S., the U.S. has to show commitment to trade.” Another Canadian transportation group reiterated this, saying that “we can have both.”

Luckily, American officials and interest groups are not ignorant of Canada’s need for trade and they recognize the need to maintain the flow of goods with Canada. Many Americans interviewed acknowledge this. In particular, a former ICE agent claimed that the U.S. “knows how important trade is to Canada.” He agreed that trade is important to both countries because it “helps increase revenue in both nations.” The representative of the ACLU reiterated that an open border is important. He explained that “good relations lead to more security because we both want more security. So the U.S. understands the importance of trade with Canada.”

Today, both the U.S. and Canada understand the need to cooperate to further both trade and security concerns. A trucking association official said that “while the two countries sometimes have different ways of doing things, they need to work out a solution.” The DHS official concurred, saying that the two countries “must work together so we are prepared to respond to another attack. If that were to happen, we must be able to respond quickly and get things going again.” One official with an agricultural group explained that  “if the countries prepare together for a possible future attack, it will help build trust. If there is another attack, he said, “an imaginary steel door will slam down at the border. To prevent this, the countries need a plan that is designed for faster business resumption, with a slower or selective ‘slamming.’”

Canadians seek to maintain high trade levels, and many Canadian officials agree that security does not have to be a priority over trade. A representative from Canada’s Steel Producers said that these two things are not mutually exclusive. One transportation representative argued that “there is a way to have both, and that trade and security can coexist.” Another travel representative stated, “If security is allowed to trump trade, it is an overreaction and the terrorists have won.” An overwhelming majority of  Canadian ministers, politicians, interest associations, and the public believe that trade should be of at least equal importance as security at the border.

It is critical that industry groups support the new policies in order to have long-term effectiveness. This may mean that industry groups must be given a voice in the implementation of future policies (Hart, 2010). Over time, differences will be worked out, and public confidence in these programs will expand. As this happens, the border will be “reinvented” and a new border culture created (Konrad & Nicol, 2008).

Despite the asymmetric relationship between Canada and the U.S., there can be no way to predict which country will control the agenda going into the future. The extent to which one country can dominate is dependent upon their willingness to devote time and resources to the task. One state may be more concerned about an issue than the other (von Hlatky & Trisko, 2012). Whatever policies emerge, it is important to note that any new security policies have perceptual and symbolic effects that have political ramifications that are often ignored. These new laws are not only about keeping out undesirables, but are “also about projecting an image of moral resolve and propping up the state’s territorial legitimacy” (Andreas, 2003b, p. 110).

Future research in this area will delve more into the impact of the new security policies at the border. For example, future research may determine how effective the new security policies in both Canada and the U.S. are in preventing terrorism and protecting the homeland from “undesirables.” Future research may also determine the effects of the new security policies on trade and the impact on the Canadian economy, if any. Other research may show how the public’s support (or non-support) of the increased security policies affect implementation of laws. These research studies would show the long-range implications of the shift in border relationships after 9/11.


The September 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. forever altered the border between the U.S. and Canada. While Americans have always been concerned about protecting the country’s borders, they are now more concerned with keeping terrorists and other undesirables out (Andreas, 2003b). At the same time, Canada remains focused on trade.

The balance between trade and security is an issue that will more than likely continue to evolve, depending on the needs of the two countries and potential threats from outsiders. The focus of the U.S. will continue to be security, whereas Canada will focus on trade. The leaders of the two countries must continue to work together to find a fair balance between the two concerns rather than continue with an unbalanced relationship. As noted by a representative of DHS, “Beyond the Border is not about managing the border. But by working together we will create a better border.”


Appendix A. Sample of Semi-Structured Interview Border Battles: Does Security Trump Trade? Interview Question Guidelines


Let us start by providing you with some context regarding our project. Our research interview today concerns the state of Canadian-U.S. border relations—namely, what is happening to the strong bilateral trading relationship that has traditionally existed between our two countries. Since 9/11, the Canadian and American governments have expressed the need to secure their joint border from security threats, while finding a way to maintain the legitimate flow of people, goods, and services. Through a series of personal interviews with government officials, political representatives, corporate executives and political interest group leaders (in both countries), we are studying what factors have become most important in post-9/11 border initiatives, and how this will affect the current “thickening” trends of the Canadian-U.S. border. (Funding for this project has been provided by the Canadian Studies Faculty Research Grant Program).

Post 9/11 Border Initiatives

Before we begin our discussion of Beyond the Border, we would like to get some comments about the earlier collaborative initiatives that were implemented after 9/11 (i.e. Smart Boarder Accord, Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, the Shiprider Agreement Program) to accomplish the goal of securing the joint border while promoting the legitimate flow of people and trade.

In your opinion,

  1. Were any of these earlier initiatives effective? Did your organization support these initiatives?

  2. What specific problems continued to hinder the flow of people, goods, and services?

  3. Was border security still threatened?

Beyond the Border: Consultation Process

Now we would like to focus on the Beyond the Border negotiation process. After setting up the Beyond the Border framework in February, 2011, the Canadian government announced that it would begin a consultation process to solicit the views of Canadian stakeholders on the proposed project. 

  1. Did American government officials make a similar effort to consult stakeholders? If not, did you find that the U.S. government made a sufficient attempt to consult with stakeholders?

  2. If not, do you believe that such a process should have been instituted? (How might it have helped the process?)

  3. What political representatives and/or government agencies, if any, did your organization reach out to (i.e., did you identify key members of the government/representatives (Border States) to talk to)?

  4. Did you use other avenues to advocate your position (i.e., coordinate activities with other interest groups)?

  5. Did this differ from your past efforts regarding Canada-U.S. border cooperation? How so?

  6. Did you attempt to sway lawmakers or talk to similar organizations across the border? What factors led to your decision to try to contact these particular politicians/groups?

  7. Do you believe that the media sufficiently covered the issue?

It’s not unusual that negotiations are held behind closed doors; however, it has been suggested that the negotiation/discussion process for Beyond the Border was too secretive.

  1. Do you believe this was the case? If so, why was the process kept so close to the vest?

  2. Should the government have consulted with Parliament/ Congress and the public more frequently?

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has stated that this is the most significant agreement since the North American Free Trade Agreement. President Obama stated that expanded trade with Canada was an important component of future economic growth. Yet, the language of the Beyond the Border Action Plan made it clear that the agreement was not intended to constitute an international treaty under international law. Instead, the implementation of the Action Plan will be subject to normal budget, legal and regulatory mechanisms in each country.

  1. Why do you think a comprehensive treaty was not negotiated (i.e., similar to NAFTA)?

  2. Do you believe that a comprehensive treaty should have been the goal? Why/why not? 

Beyond the Border Action Plan

In launching the Action Plan, government officials declared two fundamental guiding principles: (1) each country would respect the other’s sovereign right to act independently in accordance with their own interests and laws; (2) the promotion of the principles of human rights, privacy, and civil liberty by both countries would be essential to the rule of law and effective management of the perimeter.

  1. In your view, does the final agreement reflect these principles? (If the answer is “no,” please explain.)

  2. Was this issue a priority for your group when you were lobbying the government?

Since 9/11, we frequently hear an argument that enhanced border security must come at a cost of a thickening border. In other words, security concerns must trump trade.

  1. Do you believe that this argument is a false one?

  2. Do you believe that the Beyond the Border Action Plan can enhance security and increase trade efficiency at the same time? If not, do you believe that we can ensure both security and trade? (Explain.)

  3. Does the Beyond the Border Action Plan set up a framework for further progress in years to come, or is it likely that the border will continue to thicken anyways?

As we already touched upon, the implementation of the Action Plan will be subject to the normal budgetary process. Thus, infrastructure upgrades and other program initiatives depend upon the willingness of the two governments to spend the required capital on the various aspects of the project.

  1. Will both sides commit the necessary money to implement the Action Plan?

  2. Do you believe that different spending priorities will hinder its implementation (i.e., security vs. trade infrastructure)? (i.e., Will the Obama administration spend the needed political capital on this deal?)

  3. How can stakeholders maintain the pressure to ensure that the process will move forward?

  4. Are there other obstacles to the implementation of this Action Plan? (e.g., another terror attack/economic stagnation/change in administration in national or state level/pushback from opposing groups)

Some have claimed that Beyond the Border marks a major development in the Canadian-U.S. border relationship. However, others counter that it simply creates a series of “new pilot projects” or builds upon existing cooperative ventures. For example, information sharing was already occurring, the Shiprider program was well established, and the two countries coordinate aspects of security through NORAD.

  1. What is your view on this subject—is this plan a significant development?

  2. On a scale of 0 to 10, where 10 is as positive as you can be and  0 as negative as you can be, how do you rate the likelihood that the Beyond the Border Action Plan will enhance the flow of trade between Canada and the United States?

  3. On a scale of 0 to 10, where 10 is as positive as you can be and 0 as negative as you can be, how do you rate the likelihood that the Beyond the Border Action Plan will enhance security between the two countries?

Officials have yet to decide exactly what information will be shared about Canadian and U.S. citizens when they cross the border.

  1. Do you believe that the final decision will sufficiently address information privacy concerns (e.g., biometric information sharing)?

  2. Do you believe that the Americans trust the Canadians enough to stop the “bad guys” at the perimeter? (Explain.)

  3. How can the success of the program be quantified?

  4. With respect to regulatory cooperation, do you fear a “race to the bottom”? Can you identify any specific areas?

  5. Does the Action Plan provide adequate accountability in the process?

  6. Should Parliament/Congress be given more oversight responsibilities? That is, will MPs have the ability to assess the value and risks of the agreement?

Appendix B. Overview/sample of interview contact list

Political Representatives

Various national political representatives and staffers from both countries

Present and former diplomats from both countries

Interest Groups

Air Transport Association of Canada

American Automotive Policy Council

American Civil Liberties Union

Association of Canadian Port Authorities

Binational Alliance

Canadian American Business Council

Canadian Chamber of Commerce

Canadian Council of Chief Executives

Canadian Society of Customs Brokers

Canadian Steel Workers Association

Erie County Industrial Development Agency

Hudson Institute

National Airlines Council

National Conference of State Legislators

National Retail Federation

U.S. Chamber of Commerce

U.S. Conference of Mayors

U.S. Travel Association

Government Ministries and Departments

Canadian Border Services Agency

Canadian Ministry of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Canadian Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration

Canadian Ministry of International Trade

Canadian Ministry of Public Safety

Department of Homeland Security

House Committee on Foreign Affairs

House Committee on Homeland Security

House Committee on Small Business

Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship

U.S. Coast Guard


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Nancy Marion is a professor of Political Science at the University of Akron. Her research interests include criminal justice policy and the politics    of criminal justice. She has published numerous articles and books on this topic, including Introduction to Homeland Security: Policy, Organization and Administration.

Ronald Gelleny is an associate professor of Political Science at the University of Akron. His research interests include international border security, globalization, human rights and democratization.  His  work  has  appeared in European Union Politics, International Studies Quarterly, Political Research Quarterly, and the Journal of Peace Research.

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