OTTAWA – Canada and the United States announced a series of initiatives Thursday to strengthen border security while allowing legitimate traffic to flow more smoothly.
Border backlogs along the busy U.S.-Canada border were the focus of a meeting in Ottawa between Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge (search) and Canadian Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan (search).
They agreed to revisions in an agreement signed three years ago in the wake of the Sept. 11, attacks.
Governments in both countries are concerned that tightened security does not harm the $1.4 billion worth of trade every day along what is called the world's longest undefended border.
Among the measures announced Thursday:
— Canada's participation in the U.S. Container Security Initiative (search), where Canadian border agents would be deployed to a foreign marine port by April 2005 to search shipping containers bound for North America.
— A pilot project at Vancouver international airport to use biometrics information like fingerprints and eye scans to fast-track low-risk passengers through immigration and customs. The so-called NEXUS project is already in place at 11 border crossings and will be extended to air travelers in Vancouver starting Nov. 30.
— A new Canada-U.S. Integrated Border Enforcement Team in the Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario region. Similar groups of Canadian and U.S. law-enforcement officials are already in place at 14 border regions.
— Installing so-called fast lanes to allow trucks and commercial goods to move faster while higher-risk passengers get screened at the British Columbia-Blaine, Wash. and Windsor-Detroit crossings. Fast lanes have already been installed at 12 crossings.