Doer says 'no indication' U.S. putting up border fence
Canada's ambassador to the United States says despite a leaked report that suggests U.S. officials are considering erecting a security fence along the Canadian border, there is "no indication" that such a plan will go ahead.
Building fences along the Canadian border is one of the options the U.S. government is considering as it mulls how to handle "trouble spots" and keep out criminals and other threats.
In a new draft report, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency includes among its proposals "fencing and other barriers" at the Canadian border to get a handle on "trouble spots where passage of cross-border violators is difficult to control."
Gary Doer cautioned against looking at what amounts to an environmental assessment as a done deal, given that it's not the same as a fully costed construction proposal.
"The reports come out every day in the United States about this option or that option," Doer said. "But there's no indication that that's what the U.S. is going to do."
Doer said both the U.S. and Canada have to be vigilant in dealing with border security issues, such as guns and drugs being smuggled each way.
But the two sides are working together on programs such as ships patrolling the Great Lakes in an effort "to work together."
The report does outline the possibility of ramping up other, high-tech border-patrol measures, including radiation detectors, cameras and drones. However, it rejects the idea of hiring "significantly more" border patrol agents, citing a recent hiring boom.
The report is essentially an environmental assessment of the potential impacts of increased security measures along the border. The agency will hold public consultations in Washington and in U.S. border cities next month before implementing a plan.
A report issued recently by the U.S. Government Accountability Office warned that only a small portion of the border with Canada is adequately secured, pointing out that border officers control just 50 kilometres of the 6,400-kilometre boundary.
Unmanned U.S. aircraft patrol about 1,800 kilometres along the border around Washington State, Minnesota and New York State.
However, officials have questioned whether fencing would turn out to be much of a deterrent along such a vast terrain that ranges from dense forest to Prairie plain.
The report says that in addition to fencing, trenches and other barriers could be put in place to restrict movement across the border. Whatever the plans, the report says infrastructure, such as roads and trails, along the border would also have to be improved.
Elinor Sloan, an international relations expert at Carleton University, said initial public consultations for the report began about a year ago, so the proposals have been under consideration for some time.
Sloan said it is difficult to know if ideas such as a security fence are being considered in response to a specific threat.
"It's probably driven by a perceived increase in threat along the border, but not just in the last few months," Sloan told CTV News Channel Thursday afternoon in an interview from Ottawa.
Sloan pointed out that U.S. officials were obviously concerned about potential threats posed by the so-called "Toronto 18," as well as the "Millennium Bomber," who was stopped at the B.C.-Washington State border in 1999 as he tried to make his way to the Los Angeles Airport.
"Apparently there are many other (threats)," Sloan said. "Department of Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano has indicated that there are other ones that simply can't be released for security reasons."
The report comes out as Canadian and U.S. officials hammer out a deal on perimeter security designed to keep goods and people moving across the border, where congestion has worsened in the years since the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
The Canada Border Services Agency issued a statement in response to the report Thursday, saying that "policy options in the draft report have not been part of the discussions between the CBSA and U.S. CBP on ways to improve border management."
NDP justice critic Joe Comartin blasted the report as fear-mongering by U.S. bureaucrats, saying Americans don't view Canadians as a threat.
"When you get their security agencies just going off on this kind of a tangent ... well, quite frankly, it just makes me angry," Comartin told The Canadian Press.
"We had quite an open border prior to 9-11, and just every year it just gets tighter and tighter."
With files from Ken Gousseau in Winnipeg and The Canadian Press