Cablegate: Canadian Dip Note Expresses Concerns About
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
231859Z Dec 04
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 OTTAWA 003459
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAIR ECON PREL CA FAC
SUBJECT: CANADIAN DIP NOTE EXPRESSES CONCERNS ABOUT
CONGESTION AT TORONTO PRECLEARANCE
1. Summary: The Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA)
delivered a diplomatic note (no. NUE-0139) to Acting Econ M/C
and Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) Attache on December 22,
expressing concern about congestion at the Toronto
preclearance facility and requesting that DHS take steps to
reduce the congestion. Text of the note is provided below in
paragraph 2 and talking points used by DFA Director Bruce
Levy are provided in paragraph 3. Copies of attachments
referred to in the note will be forwarded to WHA/CAN and DHS.
DHS Attache Considine gave Levy an update on recent measures
that have been taken by DHS to address the problem of
congestion (see paragraph 4). Levy expressed appreciation
for those measures and said the GOC would monitor conditions
at Toronto in hopes of continued improvement. Post requests
that Dept provide text of a diplomatic note for response to
DFA, as needed, and updates on any additional steps DHS may
take to reduce congestion at the Toronto preclearance
facility. End Summary.
2. TEXT OF GOC NOTE NO. NUE-0139
Foreign Affairs Canada presents its compliments to the
Embassy of the United States of America and has the honour to
refer to the attached materials which collectively document a
serious and growing problem with congestion at preclearance
facilities at Toronto,s Lester B. Pearson International
Airport (PIA), Canada,s most important gateway for
cross-border air travel.
The Department has the further honour to note that
transborder passengers, including a large number of United
States citizens and permanent residents, are experiencing
substantial and growing delays when being processed through
preclearance at Terminals 2 and 3 at PIA, especially at early
morning peak-hour times. Delays result in long line-ups in
front of the preclearance areas as well as terminal
congestion, flight cancellations, missed flights and missed
Canadian authorities are concerned that the Greater Toronto
Airports Authority might have to ration access to
preclearance during peak hours of cross-border traffic, or
that United States preclearance officers might do so. Such a
development would be contrary to the spirit and intent of the
2001 Agreement on Air Transport Preclearance and would hinder
the ability of Canadian and United States airlines to take
full advantage of the 1995 Agreement on Air Transport.
Canadian authorities recognize that United States authorities
are giving serious attention to this issue. Canadian
authorities also wish to express their appreciation for the
efforts by United States preclearance officers to try to
accommodate this congestion, including a pilot project to
open preclearance a half hour earlier, that is at 4:30 a.m.
at Terminal 3 on Mondays. Canadian authorities also
appreciate that preclearance at Terminal 3 will open at 4:30
a.m. during the December 17-25 peak travel period. The pilot
should be extended indefinitely to cover the full week and to
include Terminal 2. It is clear, however, that this will not
be sufficient. Canadian authorities therefore also ask that
the number of preclearance officers at Terminals 2 and 3 be
increased on an urgent basis. These steps should be
considered as a matter of high priority to avoid a further
deterioration of an already difficult situation.
Foreign Affairs Canada avails itself of this opportunity to
renew to the Embassy of the United States of America the
assurances of its highest consideration.
Ottawa, December 22, 2004
End text of diplomatic note.
3. CANADIAN TALKING POINTS ON PRECLEARANCE CONGESTION AT
-- We understand that CBP sent a &jump team8 to look
into the preclearance congestion problem at Toronto.
-- Congestion at preclearance at Toronto,s Terminals 2
and 3 has important implications because Toronto accounts for
approximately 40% of cross-border traffic and is a network
-- Average processing time at preclearance has increased
since 9/11. This is understandable and by itself has not
been a problem because of the sharp decline in traffic after
9/11. Recently, however, transborder traffic has recently
-- The attachments to the Note are analyses of this
problem by the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA), TBI
Canada (the manager of Terminal 3), Air Canada and Air
Transat. Each has taken a different approach but they are
consistent in identifying the serious negative impact of
congestion at preclearance.
-- Post-clearance would not be a practical solution
because the GTAA would not be able to provide sufficient
international gates or check-in counters which are already
congested. The availability of landing slots at certain
United States airports is also an issue.
-- Shifting flights from peak hours to off-peak hours
would disrupt Canadian and US airlines, schedules. It would
also be inconvenient for travelers and undermine Toronto,s
role as Canada,s most important gateway for cross-border
-- Rationing of preclearance would raise issues of equity
and competitiveness for any Canadian and US airlines that
might be denied preclearance during peak hours.
-- We recognize that preclearance officers are doing their
best to cope with a demanding situation. This might explain
what we understand is an increasing absenteeism rate among
preclearance officers. Increasing the capacity of
preclearance would be beneficial to all concerned.
End text of Canadian talking points.
4. DHS RESPONSE ON CONGRESTION AT TORONTO PRECLEARANCE
In response to the Canadian diplomatic note and expression of
concern, DHS Attache, John Considine, provided Levy an update
on recent measures institute by DHS to address the problem of
congestion at Toronto's preclearance facility. A summary of
those comments follows:
-- In the last month, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has
taken vigorous action in response to problems with passenger
queuing, delayed flights and missed embarkations at the
preclearance operation in Toronto.
-- CBP sent a team of experienced personnel to Toronto to
review operations and to determine what actions could be
taken to improve service.
-- As a result of that review, CBP has replaced its top
managers on site with a new team of individuals with
experience in air preclearance operations, from both a
customs and immigration perspective. These three individuals
will be in place for 60 to 90 days until new permanent
management is assigned.
-- The new managers have been tasked with taking any action
necessary to ensure increased efficiency of operations while
still maintaining a strong security posture. Changes in
assignment of work hours and overtime, more effective use of
personnel, and training of all personnel in both immigration
and customs issues are among the first issues to be
addressed. Twelve new inspectors have been selected to
report to Toronto and are in the process of being approved
for foreign assignment.
-- After improvements with the CBP workforce are under way,
the new CBP managers will work with the airport and airline
management to see what logistical and scheduling changes
might be made to increase efficiency of the airport
operations. While it is understood that flight times are
chosen to optimize scheduling at both the departure and
arrival airports, there are physical limits to the current
configuration of the inspectional area. CBP cannot solve
these delays alone.
5. Action Requested: Request that Department provide text
of response to DFA's diplomatic note, as needed. Post would
also appreciate continued attention to this problem by State
and DHS, and updates on any additional measures that may be
taken by CBP to reduce congestion at the Toronto preclearance
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