Canada pushes back as U.S. Congressman flags threats along 'totally wide open' northern border
Rachel Gilmore, CTVNews.ca Staff, with a report from Richard Madan
Published Sunday, January 20, 2019 10:00PM EST
Last Updated Monday, January 21, 2019 9:46AM EST
Canada is defending accusations from a U.S. Congressman that the United States is ignoring security issues along the Canada-U.S. border.
"It is the longest, most successful international boundary -- un-militarized international boundary -- in the history of the world, and we're determined to keep it that way," Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said in an interview with CTV Power Play Host Don Martin on Wednesday.
"I'm happy to work with the new Democratic leadership in the House if they need any kind of reassurance on that point," he added.
House Democrats plan to use their new legislative powers to investigate if the Canadian border is properly resourced and staffed. The incoming chair of the House Homeland Security Oversight and Management Efficiency Subcommittee, California Rep. Lou Correa, says President Donald Trump's focus on the U.S.-Mexico border is ignoring possible threats from the northern border.
Homeland Security says there are nearly 200 vacancies for Border Patrol agents at the Canadian border, and warn that terrorists can slip across without detection.
In an interview with CTV News' Richard Madan, Correa said the Canada-U.S. border is "totally wide open" because personnel and resources are being diverted to southern border states.
"Big swaths of area between Canada and the U.S. -- nobody watching. A lot of negative things go in and out: drug trade, arms trade, things that happen on the northern border that nobody's watching. And it's happening now," Correa said.
Correa also said a U.S. border agent warned him of Canadian complacency.
"When we see something suspicious in Mexico, we tell the Mexican authorities and they're on it. Canada, they didn't see the same urgency to address some of these issues," Correa said.
In its "Northern Border Strategy," the Department of Homeland Security said the biggest threat from Canada was the illicit drug trade. It also warned of terror threats "from homegrown violent extremists in Canada who are not included in the U.S. Government's consolidated terrorist watch list and could therefore enter the United States legally at Northern Border ports of entry ... without suspicion."
At a committee hearing in November 2017, U.S. authorities warned that several Canada-U.S. border facilities have been "woefully neglected," including crossings at Niagara Falls, N.Y. and Champlain, N.Y.
But Goodale rejected accusations that Canada needs more attention.
"I've had conversations constantly with my U.S. counterparts… and all of them indicated, whether it was Democrat or Republican, whether it was early in the Trump government or later in the Trump government, a very strong sense of satisfaction about the co-operation with Canada," Goodale said.
According to reports from POLITICO, the White House has requested $211 million to hire 750 new Border Patrol agents likely bound for the United States' southern border. There are 17,000 agents working at the U.S.-Mexico border -- compared to just 2,000 working at Canada's border with the United States, which is over twice as long.
Correa's accusations also aren't entirely new.
During a committee hearing a year-and-a-half ago, Republican Congressman John Katko flagged concerns about the Canada-U.S. border.
"We have to recognize the northern border is a threat just like the southern border, and I would argue that because of lack of attention it is more than a threat," Katko said.
Correa and his committee are expected to travel to Canada in the spring to meet with MPs.