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The Canada–United States border, officially known as the International Boundary, is the longest international border in the world shared between the same pair of countries. The terrestrial boundary (including small portions of maritime boundaries on the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic coasts, as well as the Great Lakes) is 8,891 kilometres (5,525 mi) long, including 2,475 kilometres (1,538 mi) shared with Alaska. It is Canada's only land border.
The current border originated with the Treaty of Paris in 1783, which ended the war between Great Britain and the separating colonies which would form the United States. The 45th parallel was established as the border between Lower Canada (Quebec) and New York State (including what is now Vermont). The St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes became the boundary between Upper Canada and the United States. The Jay Treaty of 1794 created the International Boundary Commission, which was charged with surveying and mapping the boundary. Westward expansion of both British North America and the United States saw the boundary extended west along the 49th parallel from the Northwest Angle at Lake of the Woods to the Rocky Mountains under the Convention of 1818. This convention extinguished British claims south of that latitude to the Red River Valley, which was part of Rupert's Land. The treaty also extinguished U.S. claims to land north of that line in the watershed of the Missouri River, which was part of the Louisiana Purchase; this amounted to three small areas, consisting of the northern part of the drainages of the Milk River (today in southern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan), the Poplar River (Saskatchewan), and Big Muddy Creek (Saskatchewan).
Disputes over the interpretation of the border treaties, and mistakes in surveying it, required additional negotiations resulting in the Webster–Ashburton Treaty of 1842. The treaty resolved the dispute known as the Aroostook War over the boundary between Maine on the one hand, and New Brunswick and the Province of Canada the other. The treaty redefined the border between New Hampshire, Vermont and New York on the one hand, and the Province of Canada on the other, resolving the Indian Stream dispute and the Fort Blunder dilemma at the outlet to Lake Champlain. The boundary along the 45th parallel had been surveyed after the War of 1812. The US Government began to construct fortifications just south of the border at Rouses Point on Lake Champlain. After a significant portion of the construction was completed, measurements revealed that at that point, the actual 45th parallel was three-quarters of a mile south of the surveyed line; the fort, which became known as "Fort Blunder," was in Canada. This created a dilemma for the United States that was not resolved until a provision of the treaty left the border on the meandering line as surveyed. The border along the Boundary Waters in present day Ontario and Minnesota between Lake Superior and the Northwest Angle was also redefined.
An 1844 boundary dispute during U.S. President James K. Polk's administration led to a call for the northern boundary of the U.S. west of the Rockies to be latitude 54° 40' north (related to the southern boundary of Russia's Alaska Territory), but the United Kingdom wanted a border that followed the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean. The dispute was resolved in the Oregon Treaty of 1846, which established the 49th parallel as the boundary through the Rockies. The Northwest Boundary Survey (1857–61) laid out the land boundary, but the water boundary was not settled for some time. After the Pig War in 1859, arbitration in 1872 established the border between the Gulf islands and the San Juan Islands. In 1903 a joint United Kingdom – Canada – U.S. tribunal established the boundary with Alaska, much of which follows the 141st meridian west.
In 1925, the International Boundary Commission was made a permanent organization responsible for surveying and mapping the boundary, maintaining boundary monuments (and buoys where applicable), as well as keeping the boundary clear of brush and vegetation for 6 metres (20 ft). This "border vista" extends for 3 metres (10 ft) on each side of the line. The Commission's annual budget is about $1.4 million (USD).
The commission is headed by two commissioners, one of whom is Canadian, the other American. In July 2007, the Bush administration relieved U.S. Commissioner Dennis Schornack of his post in connection with a dispute between the boundary commission and the U.S. government over private construction near the border. Schornack rejected the dismissal, saying that the commission is an independent, international organization outside the U.S. government's jurisdiction, and that according to the 1908 treaty that created it, a vacancy can only be created by "the death, resignation or other disability" of a commissioner. The Canadian government said that it was taking no position on the matter, but Peter Sullivan, the Canadian commissioner, said on July 13 that he was ready to work with David Bernhardt, a Colorado-based solicitor of the Department of the Interior, who was designated as the acting U.S. commissioner by President Bush.
The International Boundary is commonly referred to as the world's longest undefended border, but this is true only in the military sense, as civilian law enforcement is present. The relatively low level of security measures stands in contrast to that of the United States – Mexico border (one-third as long as the Canada–U.S. border), which is actively patrolled by U.S. customs and immigration personnel to prevent illegal migration and drug trafficking.
Parts of the International Boundary cross through mountainous terrain or heavily forested areas, but significant portions also cross remote prairie farmland and the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence River, in addition to the maritime components of the boundary at the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic oceans. The border also runs through the middle of the Akwesasne Nation and even divides some buildings found in communities in Vermont and Quebec whose construction pre-dated the border's delineation. On the Maine-New Brunswick border, it divides a golf course.
Following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, border security along the International Boundary was dramatically tightened by both nations in both populated and rural areas. Both nations are also actively involved in detailed and extensive tactical and strategic intelligence sharing. It is a common misconception in the U.S. that the nineteen terrorists involved in the September 11 attacks entered the United States via the Canadian border.
As of December 2010, Canada and the United States are negotiating an agreement titled "Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Competitiveness" which would give the U.S. more influence over Canada's border security and immigration controls, and more information would be shared by Canada with the U.S.
Residents of both nations who own property adjacent to the border are required to report construction of any physical border crossing on their land to their respective governments, and this is enforced by the International Boundary Commission. Where required, fences or vehicle blockades are used. All persons crossing the border are required to report to the respective customs and immigration agencies in each country. In remote areas where staffed border crossings are not available, there are hidden sensors on roads and also scattered in wooded areas near crossing points and on many trails and railways, but there are not enough border personnel on either side to verify and stop coordinated incursions.
In July 2005, law enforcement personnel arrested three men who had built a 360-foot (110 m) tunnel under the border between British Columbia and Washington that they intended to use for smuggling marijuana, the first such tunnel known on this border.
Cornwall, Ontario, is central to Canada's most notorious area of smuggling due to its location and transportation links which make it a crossroads for cross-border smuggling of illicit tobacco, drugs, firearms, and migrants. The neighbouring Mohawk territory of Akwesasne, which straddles the Ontario-Quebec-New York borders, enjoys a certain "First Nations" sovereignty which prevents Ontario Provincial Police, Royal Canadian Mounted Police and New York State Police from ready access to the source of smuggling operations on the territory. Customs and Excise members from the RCMP’s Northwest and Central regions have even gone to Cornwall to learn about the contraband phenomenon. The smuggling industry is rampant, with collusion between local freelancers and international organized criminals. Several lives have been lost by civilians as a result of police chasing smugglers; this on top of the hundreds of millions of dollars lost in uncollected government tax, and millions of dollars spent on law enforcement that has had a negligible effect on smuggling.
In late 2006, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a rule regarding new identification requirements for U.S. citizens and international travelers entering the U.S. implemented on January 23, 2007, this final rule and first phase of the WHTI specifies six forms of identification—one of which is required in order to enter the U.S. by air: a valid passport, a passport card, a NEXUS card, a state enhanced driver's license (available in Michigan, New York, Vermont and Washington) approved by the Secretary of Homeland Security, or trusted traveler program card (NEXUS, FAST, or SENTRI); a valid Merchant Mariner Document when traveling in conjunction with official maritime business; or a valid U.S. military identification card when traveling on official orders.
Since June 2009, every traveller arriving via a land or sea port-of-entry (including ferries) has been required to present one of the above forms of identification to cross the border.
|Rank||State||Length of Border with Canada||Rank||Province/Territory||Length of Border with the U.S.|
|1||Alaska||2,475 km (1,538 mi)||1||Ontario||2,760 km (1,715 mi)|
|2||Michigan||1,160 km (721 mi)||2||British Columbia||2,168 km (1,347 mi)|
|3||Maine||983 km (611 mi)||3||Yukon||1,210 km (752 mi)|
|4||Minnesota||880 km (547 mi)||4||Quebec||813 km (505 mi)|
|5||Montana||877 km (545 mi)||5||Saskatchewan||632 km (393 mi)|
|6||New York||716 km (445 mi)||6||New Brunswick||513 km (318 mi)|
|7||Washington||687 km (427 mi)||7||Manitoba||497 km (309 mi)|
|8||North Dakota||499 km (310 mi)||8||Alberta||298 km (185 mi)|
|9||Ohio||235 km (146 mi)|
|10||Vermont||145 km (90 mi)|
|11||New Hampshire||93 km (58 mi)|
|12||Idaho||72 km (45 mi)|
|13||Pennsylvania||68 km (42 mi)|
The U.S. maintains immigration offices, called "pre-clearance facilities", in eight Canadian airports with international air service to the United States (Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, and Winnipeg). This expedites travel by allowing flights originating in Canada to land at a U.S. airport without being processed as an international arrival. Similar arrangements exist at major Canadian seaports that handle sealed direct import shipments into the U.S.
Canada does not maintain equivalent personnel at U.S. airports due to the sheer number of US departure locations with Canadian-bound flights and the limited number of flights compared to the number of U.S.-bound flights that depart major Canadian airports. Additionally, at Vancouver's Pacific Central Station, passengers are required to pass through U.S. pre-clearance facilities and pass their baggage through an x-ray before being allowed to board the Seattle-bound Amtrak Cascades train, which makes no further stops before crossing the border. Pre-clearance facilities are not available for the popular New York City to Montreal (Adirondack) or Toronto (Maple Leaf) lines, as these lines have stops between Montreal or Toronto and the border. Instead, passengers must clear customs at a stop located at the actual border.
Ferry services operate between the province of New Brunswick and the state of Maine, as well as between the province of British Columbia and the states of Washington and Alaska. There are also several ferry services in the Great Lakes operating between the province of Ontario and the states of Michigan, New York, and Ohio. The ferry between Maine and Nova Scotia ended its route in 2009.
Boldt Castle in Heart Island on the St. Lawrence River has a border control point on the island, but no specific location on the Canadian side. Canadians must present identification to land on the island.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (January 2011)|
One curiosity on the Canada–U.S. border is the presence of four airports that straddle the borderline—Piney Pinecreek Border Airport in Manitoba and Minnesota, Coronach/Scobey Border Station Airport in Saskatchewan and Montana, Coutts/Ross International Airport in Coutts, Alberta and Sweetgrass, Montana and Avey Field State Airport in Washington and British Columbia. Each of these airports is adjacent to a border crossing. The runways at Piney Pinecreek and Avey Field run roughly north/south and cross the border. Coutts/Ross and Coronach/Scobey's runways run east/west, directly along the border itself; before the entry of the United States into World War II, they were used to surreptitiously transfer US-built airplanes such as the Lockheed Hudson to the RCAF for delivery to Great Britain. The aircraft were flown to the border, landed, and then towed on their wheels over the border into Canada by tractors or horse drawn teams, before then being flown to RCAF airfields where they were then dismantled and "cocooned" for transport as deck cargo, by ship to Liverpool.
The Haskell Free Library and Opera House straddles the border in Derby Line, Vermont and Stanstead, Quebec. Private homes are divided by the International Boundary line between Estcourt Station, Maine and Pohénégamook, Quebec. Private homes between Beebe Plain, Quebec and Beebe Plain, Vermont as well as between Richford, VT and Abercorn, Quebec also are divided by the border.
The Halfway House, a tavern also known as Taillon's International Hotel, straddles the border between Dundee, Quebec and Fort Covington, New York. It was built in 1820, before the border was surveyed.
20. Paulus, Jeremy and Asgary, Ali (2010) "Enhancing Border Security: Local Values and Preferences at the Blue Water Bridge (Point Edward, Canada)," Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management: Vol. 7 : Iss. 1, Article 77.
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