Politics

Canada must remain true to its values in clash over arming U.S. customs officers in Canada: Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada must be able to remain true to its values as it tries to resolve a dispute with the United States over the legal protections for American customs officers working in Canada. 

'I think it's really important that we are able to stay true to our values as Canadians,' PM said

NEXUS offices opened in the U.S. three months ago but they remain closed here as Canada and the U.S. try to find common ground over the protections guaranteed to U.S. and preclearance officers on Canadian soil. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada must be able to remain true to its values as it tries to resolve a dispute with the United States over the legal protections for American customs officers working in Canada. 

"There are conversations and discussions going on with the United States," Trudeau said in Prince Edward Island Friday. 

"I think it's really important that we are able to stay true to our values as Canadians but respect the way we need to work together," he said. "Those are conversations that are ongoing and I hope that they'll be resolved soon."

The dispute has kept NEXUS enrolment centres closed in Canada more than three months after they reopened south of the border — due in part to a clash over the right of U.S. agents to carry guns on Canadian soil. 

The standoff has led to a massive backlog in applications for the program, which allows pre-approved travellers to cross the border more quickly. 

Sidearms remain a sticking point

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) said the number of NEXUS applications has ballooned from 270,000 in April to more than 341,000 at a time when travel delays are wreaking havoc on passengers' summer plans. 

"We know that airlines are facing shortages of labour, airports are having trouble hiring people, there are lots of challenges and it's not just limited to Canada, we're seeing it around the world," Trudeau said Friday. 

"I can tell you that the minister of transport is very, very much engaged in getting air travel going again."

WATCH | Why Canadians are facing delays to renew NEXUS cards: 

Canadian Nexus cardholders face major renewal delays

4 months ago
Duration 1:57
Nearly 300,000 Canadians with Nexus cards — which speed up entry into the U.S. — are waiting to get their cards renewed.

CBSA spokesperson Rebecca Purdy said in an email that Canada and the U.S. remain "in discussions" about when the 13 enrolment centres will reopen for applicant interviews, as the two sides try to clarify "legal protections" for American customs officers while they are working at the jointly-staffed centres. 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed the hold-up revolves around legal protections for its NEXUS office staff, saying in an email "one example could include the authority to carry or have access to a firearm while on duty." 

Two senior Canadian government sources told The Canadian Press the U.S. wants its customs officers who work in NEXUS centres to have the same protections guaranteed to its other preclearance officers on Canadian soil, with sidearms as a major sticking point in the talks.

With files from The Canadian Press

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