Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale has announced that Canada will begin collecting passport data from people leaving the country. “It’s nothing more or less than what you find on page two of your passport,” Goodale told reporters on Wednesday. “And that is the full name, the nationality, the issuing authority and the gender of the traveller.”
The same information is already collected when people enter Canada. Collecting such data upon departure will put the country in line with allies like the U.S. and the U.K.
“Having this data will allow us to better respond to amber alerts, for example, on missing children,” Goodale said. “It will help us deal with human trafficking, it will help us deal better with illegal travel by terrorist fighters, it will help (Minister of Immigration) John McCallum deal with immigration proceedings and visa applications, and it will help us ensure the integrity of Canadian social programs.”
When leaving Canada by land, American border officials will collect the data and send it back to Canadian officials. When leaving the country by air, airlines will simply provide passenger manifests to the Canada Border Services Agency. All information will be retained for 15 years.
While the plan will enhance international security, it will also serve to keep tabs on snowbirds wintering in the U.S. to determine their legal residence, monitor the residency of people attempting to dodge taxes, and stop people from illegally collecting millions of dollars in government employment benefits while out of the country. The Canada Revenue Agency and Employment and Social Development Canada expect to save between $194 million and $319 million over five years once system is fully in place.
Paul Frazer, president of PD Frazer Associates — a government relations and business strategy consultancy firm — believes that the new system is long overdue.
“I think that for Canada in particular, if it’s going to be responsible for its borders… it needs to know who’s coming and going,” the one-time Canadian ambassador told Power Play from Washington D.C. “The going is as important as the coming these days given the reality of the world.”
Goodale reassured Canadians concerned about their privacy.
“We will have written arrangements with the United States about what they may do and may not do with the information,” he said. “If we find that American officials are not complying with the privacy arrangements that we have put in place, then we can terminate the arrangement.