Canada to Collect Fingerprints as Harper Expands Border Security

Canada will expand the number of visitors it photographs and fingerprints in a bid to curb the threat of terrorist attacks, the Prime Minister said.

Stephen Harper, speaking in Toronto on Thursday, announced C$312.6 million ($251 million) over five years to expand biometric screening at Canadian borders. That funding would be partly recovered by service fees, he said.

The new screening measures apply to those seeking work or study permits -- except U.S. citizens -- and to those applying for visitor visas or permanent residency, the Prime Minister’s office said. They would take effect no sooner than 2018.

“For a prosperous, pluralistic country like Canada, one of the great trading nations of the world, borders cannot be barriers,” Harper said. “Still, they must be filters -- effective filters.”

The new measures will help Canada “make sure people are who they say they are” when they arrive at the border. “Because you can fake your name, you can fake your documents,” the Prime Minister said. “But you cannot fake your fingerprints.”

Canada already has biometric screening for visitors from 29 countries, a list that will be “expanded vastly” over four years, Harper told reporters after the announcement.

Biometric Screening

The funding will make sure photography and fingerprinting services are robust and easily available, he said. Canada will charge a fee “comparable with other countries, that will recoup much of the cost to Canadian taxpayers,” Harper said without specifying the fee.

Canada has collected biometric data from refugee claimants since 1993 and also from deportees, the Prime Minister’s office said.

Harper also announced C$137 million in funding over five years for the Canada’s domestic spy agency to fight terrorism on home soil and C$10 million over five years for the country’s tax agency to “detect and suppress terrorist financing.”

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