Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/2/2009 (4598 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
THE United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on Monday launched the first flight of a Predator B drone aircraft along the American border with Manitoba. The plane uses infrared sensors, heat sensors and video cameras to monitor activity on the ground as part of the Americans' plan to make their northern border more secure from terrorist infiltration and illegal immigration.
Surprisingly, given the fuss that was created when the CBP announced the project two years ago, there was hardly a peep of protest on Monday when the first Predator took off. The loudest peep, perhaps, came from Emerson MLA Clifford Graydon, who expressed his fears that the range of the drone's electronic eyes might pry open the privacy of his constituents, many of whom live close to the border.
His concern is not misplaced. The drones can see into towns such as Pembina, which is only metres away from the border. Their information-gathering capability is 25 kilometres. Restrictions placed on them to satisfy Canadian sensibilities over sovereignty restrict the drones to staying 16 kilometres from the border, but that still leaves a considerable overlap of view. Because Canada is not a partner in this operation, what is done with the information collected on the Canadian side is at the Americans' discretion.
But while Mr. Graydon's concern is not misplaced, it may still be misguided. If privacy is his concern, he might do better to address the problem of the increasing video surveillance of the Canadian public by business and police in stores and public places. The question he should be asking about the drones is why, with at least two years of warning, the federal government did not come up with an arrangement that would make Canada a partner in this project and privy to all the information that it gathers.
Border security should not be regarded as a particular American eccentricity. It should be seen as what it is, a vital concern of both governments, that should be addressed in joint ventures that are part of a continental defence system.
Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the United States has recognized this on a fairly consistent basis and frequently offered to share technology with Canada in joint-command programs. Given that Canada has little to bring to this arrangement other than the border itself, it is a generous offer that would make this country an equal player in continental security. Ottawa needs to explain to Canadians, and to Manitobans who live under the eyes of the drones, why it has been dragging its heels. That is the issue Mr. Graydon, and everybody else, should be raising.