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Canada and US head for joint policing, patrols, intelligence

Security the goal, but it won't compromise privacy, Tories insist.

Photo of Peace Arch courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Joint policing, intelligence, coast guard patrols. But no compromise on privacy.

That's the promise from Canadian and American leaders as they continue to talk about a common perimeter security plan for North America.

The Canadian Press has the story:

WINNIPEG -- Canada and the United States are moving closer to a deal on enhanced border security -- a topic that will be discussed in the coming weeks by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama.

"We're talking sometime in the early fall ... where the president and the prime minister can be updated and they can also provide us with further directions,'' Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said Monday following a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

The Canadian and the U.S. governments are trying to hammer out a plan for a North American security perimeter, a deal that would boost co-operation on border security without slowing cross-border trade or invading the privacy of travellers.

Canada's privacy commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, warned Parliament last month that Canadians will not accept weaker protection of their personal information -- everything from photos to fingerprints -- simply to win a perimeter security deal.

Toews and Napolitano said they would work with privacy watchdogs on both sides of the border, and suggested there is already a lot of common ground.

"The privacy issues between the United States and Canada are not nearly as great as one would imagine,'' Napolitano said.

"We are openly discussing between our legal staffs where things are very consistent, where there may be some differences, but I think most Canadians would be surprised at how consistent they really are.''

Napolitano and Toews also discussed having more joint border operations such as the Shiprider program, which sees members of the RCMP and U.S. Coast Guard ride in boats together.

"We're looking at expanding that kind of basic concept to other areas where we can do more by way of joint law enforcement operation, intelligence-gathering and the like, and joint policing, particularly along the border region.''

The world has changed in the 10 years since the attacks on the World Trade Centre, Napolitano said, and increased security measures mean such an attack would be much harder to pull off.

"I'm pleased to say right now that what happened on 9-11 could not happen in that fashion in the United States today. Can there still be attacks on the United States? Yes,'' Napolitano said.

"But we have done much, much work to maximize our ability to prevent such an attack and to minimize the effect that such an attack could possibly have.''

With the 10-year anniversary of the 9-11 attacks looming, Napolitano said security will be "very robust''.

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