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Canada rejects calls for tighter border controls

There is strong evidence that terrorist groups are using Canada as a staging post for their attacks, reports Anne McIlroy

Monday September 17, 2001

Canadians reacted to the crisis in New York and Washington with sorrow and solidarity, but there are concerns that prime minister Jean Chretien's government is not prepared to take actions that may be necessary to stop terrorist groups from using Canada as a base for their activities. Canadians rushed to donate blood, collect teddy bears for the children hurt by the disaster and raise money for the victims. Flights to the US were diverted to Canada, and small towns like Gander, Newfoundland saw their populations double with the influx of passengers waiting to fly to their original destinations.

Sales of American flags increased dramatically, and the prime minister declared Friday as a national day of mourning. As many as 100 Canadians may be among the casualties.

Security at Canadian airports and border crossings was beefed up in the aftermath of the attacks. But Mr Chretien said his government has no plans to change immigration and border control policies, despite reports that some of the terrorists involved in Tuesday's attack might have slipped into the United States through Quebec or Nova Scotia.

In a press conference late last week, Mr Chretien didn't respond to a call from American ambassador Paul Cellucci for common North American immigration and border rules, saying only that Canada would work with its neighbour to the south. "This is a problem that affects all the countries in the world," he said.

Mr Chretien told reporters so far there is no evidence of a Canadian link to the plot to hijack commercial airliners and crash them into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. But critics say there are still solid reasons to toughen Canada's immigration policies.

Canada and the US share the largest undefended border in the world, and there is already ample evidence that terrorist groups are using Canada as a staging ground for attacks. The Canadian Security and Intelligence Service, Canada's spy agency, has estimated that as many as 50 organisations linked to terrorism are operating in Canada, "planning and preparing terrorist acts from Canadian soil".

Earlier this year at a trial in Los Angeles, prosecutors laid out the details of how Algerian terrorist Ahmed Ressam entered and lived undetected in Canada for years before being caught as he attempted to slip into the US with a trunk full of explosives. He apparently had plans to blow up the international airport in Los Angeles during celebrations marking the new millennium.

Mr Ressam, now serving a lengthy jail sentence in the US, is believed to have been part of a terrorist cell loosely linked to Osama bin Laden, the Saudi Arabian who the US has named as the prime suspect behind Tuesday's attack.

Canadian opposition leader Stockwell Day says that Canada appears to be a "soft spot" for terrorism and wants Mr Chretien to launch a review of immigration and security measures in order to stop "criminal elements" gaining access to the country.

But Mr. Chretien says there is no need to impose new restrictions or to launch a review. "We have not changed anything at this moment in terms of immigration. The laws will apply as they are now.",7792,553397,00.html

-- Martin Thompson (, September 17, 2001


Seems our "friend and Neighbor" needs a reality check!


-- Jackson Brown (, September 17, 2001.

We have had immigration laws on the books for years that the Congress, the Administration and the INS have refused to enforce in the name of cheap labor. You can have all the laws you can pass, but if they are not enforced they are worse then useless because it gives our population the false sense of security that they are safe. Our country is overrun with illegal immigrants, and we have no idea if these people are friend or foe. Why would Canada possibly want to follow our lead of a failed immigration policy?

-- K. (, September 18, 2001.

Thanks, K. When I read JB's response I became angry enough that I declined to answer lest I say many things I might later regret. Suffice to say that, while Canada's immigration policy probably needs revision, which it probably will get in the very near future, it certainly is not alone in this requirement. And, as you infer, it's US border personnel who determine who does and who does not enter the US, not its neighbours.

As for you, JB, who would you rather have as a neighbour, "best" or not? Syria? PA? Libya? Please think before you cast off asides.

Canada is still smarting from Bush's pronouncement of Mexico as your best neighbour. JB must believe that border is totally non-porous.

I could go on and on, but I won't. I'll just say that, in case you didn't know, approximately 100,000 people, mostly Canadians, collected on Parliament Hill in Ottawa alone last Friday to offer support and sympathy to the US citizens. If such a tragedy had happened in Canada, would a similar supportive gathering have occurred in any US city? Would the average US citizen even have known what had happened?

-- Rachel Gibson (, September 18, 2001.

Oh, yeah. I guess I'm not done yet. Have you any idea what damage the increased inspections of trucks at Canadian-US border crossings is doing to both economies? Long waits, going both ways. It means parts for manufacturing, both north and south of that border, are not getting to manufacturers as needed. We've already seen articles here indicating it is damaging the US auto industry. In Calgary, as an example, it is damaging the manufacture of badly-needed oilfield equipment. Parts supply for that industry had already slowed terribly prior to the attack; now it's down to a mere trickle. Don't you think that's going to have a cascading effect on oil production?

-- Rachel Gibson (, September 18, 2001.

Rachel, not *everyone* is so thick-headed about our friends to the north. Hang in there.

<< If such a tragedy had happened in Canada, would a similar supportive gathering have occurred in any US city? Would the average US citizen even have known what had happened? >>

On the other hand, your questions are to the point, and sadly I doubt the answer to either question would be a clear Yes. Especially the second question. Whether recent events will help to break through the general ignorance of the U.S. public is open to debate; xenophobia is likely to predominate, IMHO. Which includes even you nasty Canucks. (sad grin).

-- Andre Weltman (, September 19, 2001.

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