Yahoo reports the Harper government is moving forward with plans to give U.S. FBI and DEA agents the right to operate in Canada.
The news service cites an article in Embassy Magazine (behind a paywall), that quotes a senior RCMP officer involved saying the government is moving in “baby steps” to prevent Canadians from being alarmed.
"We recognized early that this approach would raise concerns about sovereignty, of privacy, and civil liberties of Canadians," Chief Superintendent Joe Oliver told the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence on May 14. Oliver is the RCMP director general for border integrity,
"We said 'Let's take baby steps, let's start with two agencies to test the concept, let's demonstrate to Canadians and Americans that such an approach might work.’"
So the DEA and the FBI were the pilots, and the ‘baby steps’ include the Shiprider program that lets U.S. agents act as police in Canadian waters.
Broader U.S. action in Canada, including aerial surveillance, is being considered, the article says. (No word whether the access will be reciprocal - if Canadian police will be allowed to operate in the U.S.)
Which brought to mind this column from 2002.
U.S. DEA agents had conducted an illegal operation in Canada, a B.C. Supreme Court ruling found. “The illegal conduct is extremely offensive because of the violation of Canadian sovereignty without explanation or apology," the justice wrote.
Which establishes that the agents are already operating in Canada. And suggests that they won’t be much bothered to operate under Canadian law when as they are given a broader and broader role.
There are already a full range of agreements that let U.S. police forces operate in Canada in co-operation with Canadian authorities. There is no need to expand their role and, as the judgment shows, good reason to be wary. Even of ‘baby steps.’
The column, versions of which ran in the Vancouver Sun and papers around the province, is below. The lack of reaction or concern in the wake of the court’s finding was discouraging.
Aug. 26, 2002
Ottawa eerily silent on U.S. illegal operation in B.C.
By Paul Willcocks
VICTORIA - Maybe they just don't care up in Ottawa that U.S. agents feel free to enter Canada illegally, break our laws and then conceal the evidence from the courts here.
For a week I've been trying to get someone - anyone - in the federal government to describe Canada's response to a B.C. court ruling that U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency operatives knowingly broke our laws.
B.C Supreme Court Justice Janice Dillon found the Americans knowingly snuck into Canada, ran an illegal operation and then tried to conceal their activities from the court - a shocking abuse of Canadian law, she called it. "The illegal conduct is extremely offensive because of the violation of Canadian sovereignty without explanation or apology," she wrote.
Talking to the federal government from B.C. is generally like shouting down a long, hollow tube to a deaf man.
But Ottawa should have a response when a foreign government walks all over its police and laws, especially when that foreign government is seeking to have more and more of its agents operating in Canada.
Dillon was ruling on a U.S. bid to extradite Brent 'Dave' Licht to California to face cocaine charges, the end of a saga that wanders a long, winding path from the DEA office in Los Angeles to a White Rock pier.
The DEA plan originally targeted would-be Canadian cocaine importers. Two paid informants were told to pretend to be Colombian drug dealers in Los Angeles with lots of cocaine to sell. They found some interested buyers, and set off on a trail that led to Vancouver. They wanted to follow that trail across the border.
The rules governing a DEA operation in Canada are clear. A U.S.-Canada agreement requires the DEA to get RCMP consent. They also needed a special permit from the immigration minister because the undercover agent had a criminal record.
And they needed approval from the RCMP's top narcotics officer to pretend they had drugs for sale. The tactic is illegal in Canada except under tight controls, because of the risk of injustice. When police approach potential buyers, they may be creating a crime that would never have happened without their instigation
The Mounties said yes and the phoney dealer and his DEA handler came up. But his efforts bombed; no big drug dealers were discovered.
The DEA wanted to try again, but the RCMP said no. They had higher priorities.
The DEA seemed to accept the decision. But a month later one of the undercover agents entered Canada illegally, and ignoring our law and agreements signed by his country, tried to make a drug deal.
Eventually a pretend deal in California was arranged, with Licht. He wasn't there for the buy, so the U.S. set out to extradite him on conspiracy charges.
That's what led to Dillon's ruling. The Americans knowingly broke Canadian law and violated international agreements, she found. They conducted an illegal reverse sting operation. They tried to conceal the information from the court. And they never offered any explanation for the illegal acts. (This wasn't some fluke. Documents showed that the RCMP felt pressured to approve the first operation quickly, because they feared that the DEA would just go ahead illegally.)
I expected a run-around from American officials. But surely the Canadian government would have a response to the damaging findings.
But it took two days for a spokesman for Justice Minister Martin Cauchon to say he had no comment, although he was considering an appeal - on behalf of the Americans. After more than a week of calls, Solicitor General Lawrence MacAulay's staff still haven't explained whether the case is an aberration, whether it will affect future DEA activities in Canada, how many legal DEA operations are conducted in B.C. - or even whether they've asked the Americans for an accounting for the illegal acts.
Our law should matter more than that.