Monday, June 05, 2006

Arrests Raise Security Concerns About US-Canadian Border

A weekend raid ending in the arrest of 17 suspects on terrorism-related charges in Toronto has renewed security concerns about the U.S. border, and accusations that Canada is a haven for militant Islamic groups. News of the arrests made the front pages of newspapers nation wide. "Americans should be very concerned, because Canada is our northern neighbour and there's a large al Qaeda presence in Canada," New York Republican Peter King, chairman of the House of Representatives homeland security committee, said to reporters. "I think it's a disproportionate number of al Qaeda in Canada because of their very liberal immigration laws, because of how political asylum is granted so easily." Most of the suspects are Canadian citizens and all are Canadian residents.Democratic Senator Carl Levin, who has already complained about Canadian garbage entering Michigan landfill sites, said the trash makes a perfect hiding spot for bombs or weapons. "Most of (the garbage trucks) are not inspected, and particularly in the way garbage trucks from Ontario cannot be inspected, represent a real significant security threat," he said. American fears about lax Canadian border security can be traced back to 1999, when Ahmed Ressam was caught entering Washington state from Canada with tools to make a bomb. And in the weeks following Sept. 11, 2001, erroneous reports surfaced that some of the hijackers entered America through Canada. But Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice praised Canadian law enforcement officials Sunday, saying security is not a problem. "It's obviously a very great success for the Canadian counterterrorism efforts, which we know have been very robust," she said. "They're to be congratulated for it. Really, since Sept. 11, Canada has been very active in the war on terror." Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day told canadian reporters that the arrests should build confidence in Canada's security efforts. "This type of action and the demonstration of what Canadian security forces can do builds confidence, not just among Canadians but among all our allies," he said. Meanwhile, Michael Wilson, Canada's ambassador to the United States, said efforts must be made to convince politicians like King that they're wrong. "We disagree with him, but the only way that we address this is by facts, head on, from the people who are responsible for those parts of our policy," said Wilson. Canadian officials will make their case in Washington this month.