- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 23, 2001

TORONTO President Bush is expected to raise the thorny issue of border security in a White House meeting tomorrow with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, amid concerns that Canada has become a back door for U.S.-bound terrorists.
"The way we protect ourselves is to look at making sure these terrorists don't get into North America," said Ambassador Paul Cellucci, a former governor of Massachusetts.
"We ought to be working together to make sure this doesn't happen again," he told a business audience at the Canadian Club in Ottawa last week. "If we had policies on immigration and refugee status that were more common, we could establish a perimeter to protect the United States and Canada."
Mr. Cellucci's statement marked a sharp break from the usual diplomatic protocol, in which ambassadors refrain from commenting on a host country's internal policies. To some Canadians, it hit a raw nerve, with pundits dismissing it as an attempt by Washington to set up "fortress North America."
Canadian officials likewise keep insisting that they have no evidence that any hijackers entered Maine from Canada, as some U.S. officials have suggested.
Canadian Foreign Minister John Manley, in an interview Thursday with The Washington Times, said that several agencies in his country have found "no indication" that suicide bombers crossed the Canadian border. Mr. Manley also warned against imposing overly tight border security, because such a measure would be "very punishing" to both countries' economies.
"We always worry that some U.S. legislators will decide to show that they have been doing something on border-security issues and take action to tighten the Canadian border, and that will have serious economic implications," he said.
Mr. Cellucci isn't just lobbying for Canada to change its ways over lunches. He's waging his campaign through influential media outlets.
The ambassador's office turned down a request to be interviewed for this article, saying he was too busy preparing for a White House meeting tomorrow between the two leaders.
But he told the Toronto-based National Post this week: "To the extent that we can work together to protect the people of both countries, I think that would be a good thing."
He suggested working toward comparable requirements for entry visas, as well as asylum and refugee status.
Mr. Chretien has vowed Canada will be with the United States "every step of the way" in the war against terrorism, but he has also rebuffed Mr. Cellucci's call for immigration changes.
"We will remain vigilant," Mr. Chretien told almost 100,000 people gathered on Parliament Hill for Canada's own national day of mourning following the attacks, "but we will not give in to the temptation, in a rush to increase security, to undermine the values that we cherish and which have made Canada a beacon of hope, freedom and tolerance to the world.
"We will not be stampeded in the hope vain and ultimately self-defeating that we can make Canada a fortress against the world," he said.
Truckers last week faced long waits, of up to 24 hours, to enter the United States, with increased security imposed by U.S. Customs.
One of Mr. Chretien's own Liberal caucus members wondered, though, if such delays will hinder the $1.3-billion in trade that crosses the border each day.
"If we fail to address these issues, there could be serious economic repercussions," said Maurizio Bevilacqua, who urged Canada and the United States to establish a common perimeter quickly. "My sense is that in negotiating with the Americans, we will find that the Americans have a lot more in common with us than we think."
The main difference between the immigration policies of Canada and the United States is Canada's treatment of refugee claimants who have no identification when they arrive in the country.
The United States routinely detains such individuals until authorities have checked their backgrounds or deported them, but Canada does so only in exceptional circumstances.
Even if Canada's assertion that terrorists did not enter through the northern border this time, critics point to the case of Ahmed Ressam, the Algerian man arrested attempting to enter the United States with a car full of explosives in December 1999.
On Wednesday, the FBI arrested a Kuwaiti man who had lived in Toronto for six years but moved to Illinois just six weeks ago. Just three months earlier, Canadian authorities had detained Nabil Marabh and accused him of using a false passport but set him free.
The United States now holds Mr. Marabh for questioning in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

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