Canada, U.S. sign visa info sharing agreement

OTTAWA — Canada will soon begin sharing biometric information and other data about visa applicants with the United States — which then may provide it to third countries under a newly signed treaty.

OTTAWA — Canada will soon begin sharing biometric information and other data about visa applicants with the United States — which then may provide it to third countries under a newly signed treaty.

It means the fingerprints or photo of someone who hopes to visit, study or work in Canada could be passed to Washington, which in turn might share them with another country to help verify the person’s identity.

However, Canada would have to agree to the disclosure and could place restrictions or conditions on how the information is shared, says the treaty released Thursday.

The biometric sharing initiative — affecting nationals of 29 countries and one territory seeking visas to Canada — is part of a continental perimeter security deal reached last year.

The idea is to strengthen North American security while speeding the passage of goods and people across the 49th parallel.

Under the immigration agreement, biographic information — name, date of birth and gender of visa applicants and asylum claimants — will be shared by 2013.

Biometric information, such as photos and fingerprints of select visa applicants, will be shared by 2014.

Information that Canada provides to the United States will be compared with various data banks to identify previously failed refugee claimants, deportees and those trying to enter under fraudulent names.

“If there is a positive hit, we will be notified of that,” said Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

“If the hit indicates something problematic — that perhaps that person had previously been deported by the United States, or that in fact the person has an alias — then we’ll be able to more closely explore their real identity and whether they are admissible to Canada, or would constitute a security risk.”

Washington will also check with Canada when someone applies to the U.S. for a visa or claims asylum.

The federal privacy commissioner’s office has raised concerns that personal information provided by Canada could end up in countries that have a poor human rights record, endangering the applicant or their family.

Together at a ceremony Thursday to sign the treaty, Kenney and U.S. ambassador David Jacobson stressed that the data would be handled with due regard for privacy.

Jacobson noted the two countries had drafted overarching privacy principles to guide the various perimeter security initiatives.

“These are things that, quite frankly, are just as important in my country as they are in Canada,” he said. “And we both feel very strongly about it.”

Kenney said “rigorous privacy safeguards” will ensure that immigration information is shared in conformity with Canadian law, the Charter of Rights and the Privacy Act.

He called the treaty a “massive upgrade in Canada’s immigration security” and emphasized that Canada will retain sovereignty over decisions as to who is allowed into the country.

The agreement says either country may disclose information received from the other to a domestic court for immigration purposes, as long is it has written consent from the providing country.

Canada or the U.S. may also share information with the government of a third country, with consent from the providing country, to verify someone’s identity or to determine whether identity documents are genuine.

However, Canada and the U.S. commit to making “best efforts” to ensure no personal information is disclosed to a country from which the applicant has fled as a refugee, or a country in which the person’s family members reside and might be endangered by such information exchanges.

The sharing of biometric information involves visa applicants to Canada from Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Laos, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Vietnam and Yemen.

Canada says the countries were chosen based on patterns including visa refusals, removal orders, refugee claims, and nationals arriving without proper documentation or under a false identity. Canadian foreign and trade policy objectives and tourism interest were also considered.

Just Posted

Spring book sale this weekend in Red Deer

Red Deerians can get lost in a world of inexpensive books this… Continue reading

Central Alberta wildlife rehab facility not prepared to take orphaned bear cubs, yet

It’s been about eight years since the Medicine River Wildlife Centre was… Continue reading

Regional sewage line moving ahead despite concerns

Cost sharing among concerns of municipalities involved in Sylvan Lake-to-Red Deer sewage line

Red Deer family who lost everything in house fire begin rebuilding

Couple had moved into north-end home only two days before basement fire

Tory Leader Andrew Scheer says he doesn’t feel betrayed by Maxime Bernier

MONTREAL — Andrew Scheer says he doesn’t feel betrayed by former Tory… Continue reading

WATCH: Fine wine and food at Red Deer College

The Red Deer College Alumni Association hosted its 14th annual Fine Wine… Continue reading

Boston’s Tuukka Rask, Riley Nash step up in Game 4 win over Leafs

Bruins 3 Maple Leafs 1 TORONTO — The Boston Bruins didn’t need… Continue reading

Supreme Court ruling corks B.C. vintners’ hopes for free trade of Canadian wines

VANCOUVER — The Supreme Court of Canada ruling upholding interprovincial trade laws… Continue reading

Lance Armstrong settles $100M lawsuit with U.S. government

Disgraced cyclist reached $5-million settlement with sponsor U.S. Postal Service

Montreal couple hoping city lets them keep beloved pet pig named Babe

MONTREAL — Babe the pig spends his days sleeping, going for walks… Continue reading

WATCH: This is a story about a stoned raccoon at a fire station

An unusual pair showed up in the pre-dawn hours at Fire Station… Continue reading

Plastic makers’ credit ratings may be hit by pollution rules

Plastic packaging makers may be less credit-worthy in the future as governments… Continue reading

Black Press Media acquires two new Alaska newspapers

New Media Investment Group to acquire the Akron (OH) Beacon Journal while Black Press Media takes on daily newspapers in Juneau and Kenai Alaska

‘Dining of the future’: vegan restaurant boom fuelled by meat eaters

Foodies say Canada is in the midst of a renaissance in plant-based… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month