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Federal government tests remote video screening at small border crossings

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews waits to appear before the Public Safety committee Thursday March 21, 2013 in Ottawa.

Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Motorists entering Canada overnight at some remote border crossings will soon be speaking to a faraway agent via video camera.

The federal government is testing the new technology at two crossings – Piney, Man., and Morses Line, Que. – that are usually closed overnight. If the $16-million, five-year project is deemed a success, the technology will be installed elsewhere.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, whose riding includes the Piney crossing, said the remote supervision will not compromise border security.

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"Given that these are not 24-7 right now, individuals can cross at these crossings unlawfully, and may in fact be doing it," Toews told reporters Friday.

"We've been receiving some unlawful migrants, for example, in those types of areas."

The initiative will not cut jobs, Toews added. The remote crossings will be staffed as usual during the day and evening. Overnight, instead of being closed, the border will be open via video link.

Motorists will speak to a border agent stationed in Hamilton, Ont. The agent will be able to see the vehicle and the driver, but the driver will not be able to see the agent. Only the audio is two-way.

If the traveller requires a secondary screening or has something to declare, they'll be directed to the nearest staffed border crossing.

Details such as fees have yet to be worked out, Toews said. Motorists using the Piney crossing will have to pre-register, but those using the one at Morses Line will not.

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