International Boundary Commission

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International Boundary Commission
Commission de la frontière internationale
PurposeSurveying and mapping the Canada–United States border
Canada Jean Gagnon
United States Kyle K. Hipsley

The International Boundary Commission (French: Commission de la frontière internationale) is an international organization responsible for surveying and mapping the Canada–United States border. The commission was created in 1908 and made permanent by a treaty in 1925.[1]

Its responsibilities also include maintaining boundary monuments and buoys, keeping the 3-metre (9.8 ft) border vista on each side clear of brush and vegetation, overseeing any applications for permission to build within the vista, and reporting annually to the governments of both countries.


The International Boundary Commission is led by two commissioners, one from the United States and one from Canada, each with their own budget and staff; the American commissioner is appointed by the President of the United States and reports to the Secretary of State. The Canadian commissioner is appointed by the Governor-in-Council and also serves as the Surveyor General of Canada under the Minister of Natural Resources.[2]

The current commissioners are Kyle K. Hipsley (United States) and Jean Gagnon (Canada).[2]

David L. Bernhardt, the current United States Deputy Secretary of the Interior, was the IBC commissioner from the United States from 2007 to 2008.[3]

2007 dismissal controversy[edit]

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.[4] 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.[5] The Government of Canada said that it was taking no position on the matter,[6] but Peter Sullivan, the Canadian commissioner, said on July 13 that he was ready to work with David Bernhardt, who had been designated as the acting U.S. commissioner by President Bush.[7] In October 2007, U.S. federal judge Marsha Pechman ruled that the president can fire the boundary commissioner.[8]

Building near the boundary[edit]

The treaty establishing the commission provides that every power line, pipeline, railroad, highway, or other structure crossing the boundary or built within three meters (about 9 feet 10 inches) of the boundary must await authorization from the commission before construction work can be done. Various "line houses"—buildings through which the international boundary crosses—were built on the boundaries between the state of Maine and the province of New Brunswick, and between the state of Vermont and the province of Quebec, before any requirement for the commission's permission existed; some of these still stand on the boundary between Vermont and Quebec. The most well known is the Haskell Free Library and Opera House, intentionally located astride the boundary; the International Peace Garden, built in 1932 on the boundary between Manitoba and North Dakota, required authorization from the commission.


  1. ^ "History of the International Boundary Commission". International Boundary Commission. Retrieved April 16, 2018.
  2. ^ a b "About Us: The Commission". International Boundary Commission. Retrieved November 22, 2017.
  3. ^ "President Donald J. Trump Announces Key Additions to his Administration" (Press release). The White House. April 28, 2017. Retrieved May 14, 2017.
  4. ^ "Blaine couple, U.S. agency settle border wall case". Seattle Times. January 15, 2009.
  5. ^ Bowermaster, David (July 12, 2007). "Firing by Bush rejected by boundary official". Seattle Times.
  6. ^ Fong, Petti (July 26, 2007). "Politics delineates boundary dispute". Toronto Star.
  7. ^ "Fired border official's job filled quickly: White House refuses comment on former bureaucrat involved in lawsuit over couple's fence". Globe and Mail. Toronto. July 13, 2007.
  8. ^

External links[edit]