The political squabble between Canada and the United States that has delayed the reopening of Canada’s Nexus enrolment offices has resulted in a workaround pilot project.
As reported by the Canadian Press, the project is underway at the Thousand Islands border crossing between Ontario and New York, marking the “first signs of life” for a enrolment centre north of the border since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The conflict regarding Nexus is opaque, but it has to do with a request by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency that its agents be granted the same legal protections inside Nexus facilities in Canada that they currently have at other entry points, such as airports and the Canada-U.S. border.
There seems to be a disagreement over immunity from prosecution — the U.S. is arguing that its employees in Nexus offices deserve the same level of protections as diplomats from Canadian prosecution while doing their job in Canada.
During the pandemic, new and existing Canadian Nexus-pass holders requiring in-person interviews have had to travel to the U.S., where enrolment offices have been open since April, to complete their application process.
While the new program suggests evidence of a commitment to restoring the Nexus fast-traveller program as it once was, it also suggests that the days of borer agents from Canada and the U.S. conducting joint interviews inside a shared space on Canadian soil are over – at least for now.
Canada Border Services Agency spokesperson Rebecca Purdy told CP that Canada and the U.S. are still having ongoing discussions about the reopening of Canadian enrolment centres as a backlog of applications swells.
One of the short-term solutions includes allowing for the continuation of new or renewed Nexus cards being issued each month, she said.
The pilot project has been active since late September at the Thousand Islands bridge crossing between Alexandria Bay, N.Y., and the Ontario town of Landsdowne, which is about 50 kilometres east of Kingston, ON.
Nexus applicants are interviewed in person by a Canada Border Services Agency officer before crossing the border to meet with an agent from U.S. Customs and Border Protection and to be photographed and fingerprinted.
Previously, Nexus interviews were conducted in both countries, with applicants meeting for an in-person interview that was conducted by officers from the two agencies in the same room.
That process, however, has remained as normal in the U.S. since April, when the 13 Nexus U.S.-based centres re-opened for joint interviews after a pandemic-driven pause.