WASHINGTON — There is a glimmer of hope in the ongoing impasse between Canada and the United States over the Nexus express-passenger program.
The Canada Border Services Agency says the two countries are exploring “short-term measures” to reduce the backlog.
At the Thousand Islands Crossing between Ontario and New York, Nexus is interviewed separately by US and Canadian agents on opposite sides of the border.
Spokesperson Rebecca Purdy says the pilot project, which began in late September, allows applicants to be interviewed on the Canadian side before entering the United States to meet with Customs and Border Protection officials.
The rest of the Canadian enrollment centers, where agents from both countries usually interview applicants together in person, remain closed due to a shortage of American staff.
Purdy says the project could be expanded to additional border crossings where demand is higher, and both agencies have the capacity to implement it.
It says 49,482 new, refurbished, or replacement Nexus cards were issued between October 6 and November 5.
“Canada and the United States continue discussions about reopening Canadian enrollment centers and are pursuing solutions to address the current backlog,” Purdy said in a statement.
While Nexus enrollment centers in the US have been open since April, most centers in Canada have remained closed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
That’s because CBP will not send US agents to hire them unless they have the same legal protections as legal protection agents at current ports of entry.
“Both Canada and the United States remain committed to the accessible dual-national Nexus program and accelerate passage for low-risk members,” Purdy said.
She confirmed that senior officials from the two agencies met in person earlier this month to discuss “options for short-term measures that continue to increase the number of people being issued new or renewed Nexus cards each month.”
The pilot project is reminiscent of a proposal put forward around the same time by Scotty Greenwood, CEO of the Canadian-American Business Council, who was pushing hard for a solution.
The council has launched a public awareness campaign on savenexus.ca that encourages Canadians to pressure MPs to reopen registration centers.
Greenwood said the site has generated more than 1,500 emails so far, and he urged both agencies to be more transparent about their efforts so far.
“It is important, in my opinion, that we be more clear about the next steps,” she said.
“(People fear) the Nexus is hanging by a thread, and they have no idea it’s getting better; no one has any idea how that’s going to happen; that’s not a problem that’s going to go away.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on November 22, 2022.