MORSES LINE: Crossing adds remote system, extends hours

By Elaine Ezerins

Staff Writer

Just
The Facts

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SAINT-ARMAND, Quebec — Travellers now can enter Quebec, Canada via the Morses Line border crossing 24 hours a day, seven days a week due to a new processing system.

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) debuted its new remote traveller processing pilot program Thursday just opposite the U.S. border station in Franklin. Officials demonstrated how a traveler will be processed through customs without officers present.

The debate of whether to close the U.S. port of entry in 2011 seems to be at rest, after multiple families from Highgate and Franklin spoke out against it. U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy relayed the community’s views to Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the agency in charge of the port.

Now, during the staffed hours of 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., travellers and carriers of commercial goods pass through the border, interacting directly with an officer.

The pilot program on the Quebec side of the border now allows travelers to drive through during the off hours of 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. They will be processed by an officer off-site at the CSBA Telephone Reporting Centre, communicating through a kiosk equipped with two-way audio and one way video.

When the driver approaches the border crossing the officer sees the vehicle via an on-site video camera.

The officer directs the motorist to drive inside a building, and a garage like door closes behind the car, closing it in the building. The driver and any passengers interact with the officer using the audio-video system at the kiosk.

There are video cameras, a microphone and speakers as well as a scanner. The officer then asks questions and directs the driver to scan his or her passport.

The kiosk has a credit card reader, in case the driver or passenger owes duty on goods or taxes.

If the driver is allowed entry by the officer, the garage door on the other side of the building will open, giving him or her access to Canada.

If something goes wrong and the officer determines that driver or passengers need further examination, the officer can handle the situation in a number of ways: a border patrol officer from the port of entry at St. Armand, Quebec could be sent over to assess the situation, the driver could be asked to report to alternate Canadian port of entry or be asked to return to the U.S.

Infrastructure such as fencing, gates, lighting and video cameras have been installed to prevent travellers from crossing the border illegally.

CSBA introduced the pilot program at Morses Line due to the low volume of commercial traffic and travellers processed daily.

The agency also hopes to suss out potential benefits of remote traveller processing as a way to maintain border security but also expand border access between the U.S. and Canada, according to Michel Martineau, Chief of Operations.

Martineau said the pilot program is part of the Beyond the Border initiative, co-developed by the prime minister of Canada and the president of the U.S. in 2011.

“The CSBA is dedicated to modernizing the way it manages the border and is using technology to improve service delivery,” Pierre Provost, acting regional director general for Quebec, wrote.

“The remote traveller processing pilot enables the CBSA to continue to ensure the safety and security of our border while facilitating the legitimate movement of people and goods,” he continued.

The pilot program is open to Canadian and U.S. citizens as well as permanent residents of Canada and the U.S. It does not require any pre-registration.