What Canada Does in Continental Security

Article excerpt

Occasional U.S. images of Canada as an unreliable continental security partner are said false. A $5 billion commitment to improving border security in close co-operation with the United Stares is indicative of Canada's efforts to help keep both countries safe. Speech to the Renaissance Club, Detroit, Michigan, March 11, 2003.

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I want to speak to you today about our shared border and the Canadian measures to strengthen our mutual security. As Canada's minister of citizenship and immigration, I frequently deal with these issues from an immigration perspective. But first and foremost, I approach them as a Canadian. And Canadians are strongly committed to the relationship that underpins security arrangements between us.

As a friendly neighbour would, Canada has worked hard over many years--both before and after 9/11--to ensure our shared border is safe with regard to goods and people moving in both directions. Canadians have been steadfast security partners.

For this reason, we have been perplexed by some media reports appearing in this country. Every so often, there are inaccurate media stories about presumed terrorists finding their way to the United States via Canada, which generate criticism of our immigration policies. As these inaccurate reports pile up, they nourish an impression that Canada is an unreliable security partner.

This impression is wrong. These reports do not match the reality of the security arrangements that exist between us or the common security challenges each country is facing.

Most importantly, they don't take into account the many initiatives that our countries have taken jointly and independently to combat terrorism and to increase security. I want to outline some of these measures for you today.

Border Facts

Let me start with some facts about our shared border.

* It is 5,525 miles long--7,000 miles if you include Alaska.

* There are 130 land ports of entry between the U.S. and Canada--and no fence.

* Ninety percent of transborder movement takes place at 20 border crossings. The trade across the Ambassador bridge at Windsor/Detroit reflects the greatest amount of trade at any crossing point in the world.

* Our trading relationship is now running at some 1.3 billion U.S. dollars in cross-border trade every day--475 billion U.S. dollars each year.

* Over 100 million people crossed the land border last year to enter Canada.

The agreement between us concerning the border has always been to safeguard our mutual security and sovereignty while expediting the legitimate flow of people and goods. Much joint effort on border questions preceded 9-11. Our customs and immigration agencies have long worked together--as do our transport departments, our police forces and intelligence agencies. Data and information were shared, and regulatory elements were made as compatible as possible.

Further, in 1997 our two immigration departments developed a joint Border Vision to develop a cross-border approach to migratory issues.

September 11 provided massive incentive and massive acceleration to previous joint efforts and increased political resolve in both our countries along with additional resources to accomplish the task before us.

Canada's Parliament approved a budget of more than $5 billion dedicated to improving border security.

Pushing out the borders

Since then, Canada has taken strong measures that keep out people who pose a threat to North America. Indeed, we are not prepared to wait until they come. We go after them before they arrive and had been doing so before September 11.

A Canadian approach, since adopted by other countries--including the United States--involves placing officers overseas to prevent people from attempting to travel to Canada with improper documents. In the past six years, these officers have stopped more than 40,000 people with improper documents before they boarded planes for North America. …