Kenney fires back at U.S. security boss over remarks
Published Wednesday, April 22, 2009 10:47PM EDT
The U.S. Homeland Security chief has made controversial comments about Canada's immigration policy that are being slammed as "factually inaccurate" and "wrong" north of the border.
Speaking in Washington Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano seemingly slammed Canada's immigration policy saying, "Canada is allowing people into our country that we do not allow into ours."
She made the comments hot on the heels of another contentious remark she made, where she mistakenly suggested that the 9-11 terrorists entered the U.S. through Canada.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney fired back at Napolitano on CTV Newsnet's Power Play Wednesday.
"That's absolutely wrong. Ever since 9-11, and before 9-11, Canada has co-operated with the United States on issues of continental security, including as it relates to immigration. As the prime minister said when President (Barack) Obama was here, we view any threat to the United States as a threat to Canada," he said.
Liberal MP John McKay attended Napolitano's speech in Washington and called the comment an "eye roller and a little distressing."
"Apparently, our trade policy is going to be dependent on our immigration policy," he told Power Play Wednesday.
McKay also criticized Napolitano, a former Arizona governor, for not visiting the U.S-Canadian border in the first 90 days of taking her job, and for focusing more on security than on trade.
He also extended his criticism to include Obama, something few Canadian politicians have yet dared to do.
"If this is change to believe in, well, I think we better review our belief in President Obama," he charged. "We still hold a candle for President Obama and wish him every success, but to include these types of comments 90 days into the administration and such gross, factual errors, we half expected it out of the Bush administration, but it means we have a lot further to go than we ever thought before."
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is set to hold private meetings with Obama's inner circle this week.
Earlier this week, Napolitano seemed to say during a media interview that the 9-11 terrorists came from the Canadian side of the border, much to the chagrin of Canadians on both sides of the border.
In a release Tuesday night following the interview, she called Canada a "close ally and an important partner" and said she was simply misunderstood.
"I know that the September 11th hijackers did not come through Canada to the United States," she said in the statement.
"There are other instances, however, when suspected terrorists have attempted to enter our country from Canada to the United States. Some of these are well-known to the public -- such as the Millennium Bomber -- while others are not due to security reasons."
Ottawa rushed to defend its border security on Tuesday amid the diplomatic scuffle that broke out over Napolitano's earlier remarks.
In recent years, Ottawa has invested a great deal of effort into dispelling perceptions among Americans that Canada's border is an easy entry point for terrorists planning attacks on U.S. soil.
"Unfortunately, misconceptions arise on something as fundamental as where the 9-11 terrorists came from," said Michael Wilson, Canada's ambassador in Washington.
"As the 9-11 commission reported in 2004, all of the 9-11 terrorists arrived in the United States from outside North America. They flew to major U.S. airports. They entered the U.S. with documents issued by the United States government and no 9-11 terrorists came from Canada."
Wilson, who was the keynote speaker at the Border Trade Alliance meeting in Washington on Tuesday, said Napolitano's staff attempted to tamp down the controversy by blaming the comments on a simple misunderstanding.
"Her comment from her people is that she misunderstood," Wilson said, adding that he was planning a personal meeting with Napolitano in the near future.
The furor began when Napolitano was asked to clarify statements she had made about equal treatment for the Mexican and Canadian borders, despite the fact that a flood of illegal immigrants and a massive drug war are two serious issues on the southern border.
"Yes, Canada is not Mexico, it doesn't have a drug war going on, it didn't have 6,000 homicides that were drug-related last year," she said.
"Nonetheless, to the extent that terrorists have come into our country or suspected or known terrorists have entered our country across a border, it's been across the Canadian border. There are real issues there."
When asked if she was referring to the 9-11 terrorists, Napolitano added: "Not just those but others as well."
However, Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan downplayed the comments and said that Napolitano is well aware that Canada was not the source of the 9-11 terrorists.
"We spoke about it back in March, and we were sharing a chuckle at the fact that the urban myth does circulate," he told CTV's Power Play Tuesday.
"Ms. Napolitano understood quite clearly, then and now, that none of the September 11 terrorists came through Canada, as the 9-11 Commission found."
Still, that positive outlook wasn't shared by other Canadian officials.
On Tuesday afternoon, RCMP Commissioner William Elliot expressed frustration with the comments during an interview on CTV's Power Play.
"I was somewhat surprised and disappointed," he said, adding he hopes the misconception has been cleared up.
"I understand and am happy to hear that she has issued a statement acknowledging that that didn't happen."
But Thomas d'Aquino, president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, decried Napolitano's comments on Tuesday.
"I am a longstanding friend and ally of the United States, but sometimes failures in our two-way dialogue cause me to shake my head in sadness and dismay," he said in a press release.
"The claim that some of the 9/11 terrorists entered the United States from Canada is, quite simply, a myth - an urban legend that began with a handful of erroneous media reports in the days following the terrorist strikes."
With files from The Canadian Press