Nexus is « held hostage » by Washington, says the Canadian ambassador

WASHINGTON — Canada’s ambassador to the United States says the Nexus program, which expedites the passage of « pre-approved, low-risk » travelers at borders, is « held hostage » by U.S. attempts to renegotiate the 20-year-old deal .

Kirsten Hillman made the comments during a one-day summit on border issues between Canada and the United States, hosted at the Canadian Embassy in Washington.

The Nexus program was developed jointly by the Canada Border Services Agency and the United States Customs and Border Protection. It aims to expedite border crossings, both Canadian and American, of “pre-approved, low-risk” travelers. These travelers must register at a center to obtain their Nexus certificate.

However, the 13 Nexus registration centers in Canada, staffed by Canadian and American agents, remain closed because of a dispute over the legal protections of the American preclearance agents who work there.

Ms. Hillman said that as this dispute drags on, the backlog of applications for registrations — more than 350,000 — is only growing, while the pressure to resolve the dispute continues to mount.

The Canadian ambassador maintains that Washington is trying to unilaterally renegotiate the terms of the agreement, a situation which she describes as “disappointing” and “frustrating”.

The United States wants its agents working at Canadian registration centers to enjoy the same legal protections as at land border crossings and airports.

« There is an attempt to unilaterally renegotiate the terms of a 20-year-old program, and the program is being held hostage by that effort, » Hillman said. We all have to recognize that we have to work on the problems, but it will take time and in the meantime, we cannot bring the whole program to its knees, essentially.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino has acknowledged that US customs officers at Nexus centers are not entitled to the same legal protections that officers enjoy at airports and land border crossings.

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