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Canada embarks on preclearance pilot project on U.S. side of Quebec/N.Y. land border

WASHINGTON — Canada wants to launch a pilot project to explore letting northbound land travellers clear customs before they leave the United States. 

An impact analysis on the project was published last month in the Canada Gazette, along with a call for public comments.

It would establish a preclearance zone inside a Customs and Border Protection facility in Cannon Corners, N.Y., south of Montreal. 

The notice says the Canada Border Services Agency hopes to launch the project this year, although discussions about timing are still ongoing. 

It would operate for two years to determine whether similar setups could replace small, aging facilities on the Canadian side of the border. 

The project carries a price tag of $7.4 million, money that was allocated in the 2021 federal budget. 

It envisions “Canadian officers, such as border services officers, working in a ‘designated preclearance area and perimeter’ … in the United States to examine travellers and goods in order to determine whether they should be allowed to proceed to Canada,” the notice reads.

While the U.S. has been pre-clearing southbound air travellers since 1952, Canada currently has no preclearance operations anywhere in the world. 

“Establishing Canadian preclearance operations in the United States would support government and industry goals to facilitate the flow of legitimate travellers and goods across the border,” the notice says.

“It would also increase the safety and security of Canadians and the Canadian economy by pushing the border out to prevent inadmissible people and goods from entering Canada.”

The agency operates some 80 smaller, more remote land crossing facilities along the Canada-U.S. border, many of them in “various states of disrepair,” it notes. 

That’s because larger, busier entry points, such as the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ont., or the Peace Arch in Surrey, B.C., take precedence when it comes to upgrades. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 12, 2024.

James McCarten, The Canadian Press

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