Canada-U.S. border pre-clearance program approved, despite Trump worries

By Jeff Lee

Bus, train and cruise ship travel between Canada and the U.S. is set to speed up now that a pre-clearance bill has been adopted by the U.S. Senate, matched by impending Canadian legislation.
One of the first beneficiaries of the new law will be Vancouver-based tourist train operator Rocky Mountaineer, which was part of a pilot project approved earlier this year.
Once matching Canadian legislation is approved next year the company expects passengers travelling to the U.S. will be pre-cleared at Rocky Mountaineer’s facilities, meaning they no longer have to stop at the border. Another pilot project is at Montreal’s main train station.
The new bill, called the Promoting Travel, Commerce and National Security Act, is expected to be signed by Barack Obama in one of his last acts as U.S. president. It builds on an established pre-clearance program now in place at eight Canadian airports, including Vancouver.
In signing the bill into law, the Obama government would pre-empt concerns that the new Donald Trump presidency would tighten border access. Companion Canadian legislation, Bill C-23, received second reading in Parliament in June and is set to receive final reading.
In 2015 over 12 million passengers travelling to the U.S. were cleared at U.S. Customs facilities inside Canadian airports. The new bill also adds two more airports, Toronto’s Billy Bishop and Quebec City’s Jean Lesage.
Proponents of the program have long sought to expand the system to include rail and bus travel in hopes of reducing waits at border stations without compromising security.
The plan is to establish U.S. customs offices on the Canadian side of the border allowing travellers, in theory, to get screened more quickly, zip through the actual border, and ease logjams that slow travel and commerce.
“This is good news for both Canadians and international travellers and will have a positive impact on our business. We have been working with government on this project since its inception and are pleased to see continued momentum,” said Rocky Mountaineer president Steve Sammut.
“Once Canadian legislation has passed, we will continue developing a pre-clearance program for our guests that will ensure an even more seamless journey between our two great countries.”
The passage of the bill is also being hailed by the Pacific Northwest Economic Region, a public/private group made up of Canadian western provinces and Pacific Northwest states, who say pre-clearance will strengthen the region’s $55-billion travel and tourism sector.
PNWER said the program will also benefit travellers using the Amtrak Cascades, Victoria Clipper, Black Ball and Washington State Ferries, as well as cruise lines operating out of Vancouver and Seattle.
“Pre-clearance has been an important issue here in the Northwest, especially because we have the most pre-inspection sites that can be upgraded to pre-clearance, and we’re excited to see it passed,” PNWER Executive Director Matt Morrison said in a statement. “The U.S. and Canada share one of the best trade relationships in the world, but improving the flow of goods and travellers across the border will greatly benefit region’s interconnected travel and tourism economy.”
Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., David MacNaughton, also saluted the bill in a tweet Saturday. ”Preclearance is a win-win for enhanced security and prosperity on both sides of the border,” he said.

Abbotsford police hand delivers letters to Indo-Canadian parents of sons involved in gangs

Recently, Chief Bob Rich authored a letter to the parents of the young men involved in the conflict.  The letter is an earnest attempt to change the direction of the conflict and the lives of those involved.  They shared this letter with the media and the public with the hope that it again informs citizens on what the APD is doing and becomes a catalyst for others to be part of the positive change that is so desperately needed.

Police chief writes letter to parents of sons involved in Townline Hill conflict

Abbotsford: A bluntly worded letter from Abbotsford’s police chief has been distributed to the parents of men involved in the Townline Hill gang conflict, warning that their sons are in “critical danger.”

Abbotsford Police spokesman Const. Ian MacDonald said the letter signed by Chief Bob Rich has been hand-delivered by officers in the last couple of weeks to “17 or 18” homes in Abbotsford.

The Townline Hill conflict – named for the area in which most of the dispute has been taking place – began about two years ago and involves two groups of young men, primarily of South Asian descent, battling over drug turf.

Rich’s letter states that the conflict has resulted in numerous shootings and five murders, including the deaths of 18-year-old Harwin Baringh (in photo above) in October 2014 and Ping Shun Ao, 74, an innocent bystander who was killed in September 2015 by a stray bullet intended for his neighbour.

MacDonald said he would not detail the other three murders referenced in the letter, but they occurred “in and outside” Abbotsford.

He would not confirm whether these include the drive-by shooting that occurred on March 10 of this year at a home on Hawthorne Avenue – resulting in the death of a 22-year-old man – or the fatal shooting on Aug. 17 of Gurdev (Dave) Hair on Crown Court.

“Members of these gangs are trying to kill each other,” Rich states in his letter.

“Your son’s life is in critical danger. If he stays involved in gangs, he is at serious risk of being killed.”

The letter also indicates that the gang members are “fighting over who gets to sell illegal drugs in Abbotsford.”

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