- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 20, 2000

Canada is the United States' best ally in the fight against terrorism. News reports on recent arrests at the Canada-U.S. border suggesting that Canada is doing less than its fair share in protecting both our countries from terrorists are just plain wrong. Within hours of the arrests, our law-enforcement agencies launched a major joint investigation that rapidly identified and linked suspected terrorists across the continent.

Canada and the United States share the same concerns about terrorism and the two-way movement of terrorists between our countries. When it comes to denying admission to, or removing, foreign terrorists, Canada has one of the most aggressive immigration laws in the world, which is strictly enforced by experienced and dedicated professionals. Canada aggressively identifies, refuses admission to and deports known and suspected terrorists. In fact, Canada's Immigration Act inspired several provisions of the U.S. anti-terrorism act of 1996.

The United States cooperates more closely on counter-terrorism with Canada than with any other country in the world. This cooperation was formalized by our 1988 Joint Declaration on Counter-Terrorism, which bolsters information exchange, enhances border controls and strengthens crisis management capabilities. This was recognized in the Jan. 4 press briefing given by former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator for Counterterrorism Philip C. Wilcox Jr., where he praised Canada's cooperation and effectiveness in working with the United States to combat terrorism.

Cooperation between Canada and the United States in this area is exemplified by the close working relationship that exists at the highest levels in the Canadian and U.S. administrations. Attorney General Janet Reno and her Canadian counterpart, Solicitor General Lawrence MacAulay, have jointly praised the work of agencies on both sides of the border. FBI Director Louis Freeh reiterated this support in his recent meeting with Canadian law-enforcement officials.

It has been widely reported that a large number of terrorist organizations have adherents in Canada. But these same organizations are also present in the United States. This is the price that Canada, like the United States, pays for being a free and democratic country with a strong commitment to human rights and the rule of law. Against this background, the best enforcement strategy against terrorists is one that focuses key screening efforts jointly at our two countries' external borders. To this end, we systematically and regularly share information on known or suspected terrorists who apply for a visa or seek admission at a port of entry.

We cooperate and exchange this information, not simply because we have a mutual interest in safeguarding our populations and critical assets, but because as friends and neighbors we are committed to protecting each other. This cooperation produces results. For example, suspected terrorist Rahim Hani Al Sayegh, who was recently deported from the United States to Saudi Arabia, had earlier been deported from Canada to the United States at the request of the U.S. government. (Al Sayegh was initially picked up by Canadian authorities after he entered Canada from the United States.)

Canada recognizes terrorism as a serious international threat that like-minded countries must work together to combat. Recent arrests along our shared border reinforce the importance of continued vigilance. Given our unparalleled cooperation, Americans can rest assured that Canada is a strong and reliable partner of the United States in the fight against terrorism.

Raymond Chretien is ambassador of Canada to the United States.

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