Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Border crossing gets top tech

Sophisticated remote monitoring

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A tiny international border crossing that connects Manitoba to Minnesota is about to go high-tech.

The small crossing at Piney in southeastern Manitoba is one of two Canadian ports to be involved in a Canada Border Services Agency remote-traveller processing pilot project, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said Friday.

In the coming months, pre-screened travellers crossing into Canada after hours -- Piney is currently closed at night -- will talk to a camera hooked up to the CBSA monitoring centre in Hamilton, Ont., through a two-way audio and one-way video kiosk, to get approval to continue, Toews said.

'This is about enabling the intelligent use of technology and infrastructure to do our work more efficiently'

-- Public Safety Minister Vic Toews

Cameras will be installed to let the officer see the traveller, the vehicle and its occupants.

Piney was picked because it sees little traffic during regular 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. office hours -- no more on average than 24 vehicles a day.

"This is about enabling the intelligent use of technology and infrastructure to do our work more efficiently," Toews said, adding the goal is to add more remote-traveller processing stations at other smaller border crossings across Canada to make them 24-hour crossings.

"People are concerned that these crossing might close in the future," Toews said. "This is really, I believe, the answer. The technology is definitely improving and we can see this expanding."

The new program has the blessing of the United States and is to be in place by April 2015. It will run for five years at a cost of $16 million.

"With this type of technology, we will simply improve security, and I can tell you if it wasn't improving security, the Americans wouldn't agree to it," Toews said.

He added only those crossing into Canada can avail themselves of the project.

"You can't go from Canada into the U.S. That's not part of the pilot," he said.

The CBSA will conduct pre-screening verification on those interested in participating at no cost to the applicants. They must be Canadian or American citizens, Canadian permanent residents or lawful permanent residents of the United States. Only those who meet the assessment criteria will be permitted to participate in this pilot. Details on registration have yet to be announced.

The other border crossing in the pilot project is the Morses Line, border crossing in St-Armand, Que.

No changes will occur during regular business hours at Piney, and travellers will be processed according to normal procedures.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 25, 2013 A9

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