- The Washington Times - Monday, December 24, 2001

The tragic events of September 11 focused attention in both our countries on how we need to strengthen our defenses against terrorist threats. Like Americans, Canadians are concerned about having a safe and secure environment in which to live and conduct their daily lives.

It has been a cause of considerable frustration to Canadians to see themselves portrayed by some public figures in the United States as being "soft on terrorism" and "a weak link." None of the 19 hijackers came into the United States from Canada, as has been confirmed by Attorney General John Ashcroft. But this is not what is most relevant.

The ugly truth is that we have learned the hard way that the scourge of terrorism, its operatives and supporters, pervades open societies, from the United States to Canada, Great Britain, Germany and nearly every other developed country that can be named, as well as many centers in the developing world.

The fact is, as Canada's minister of foreign affairs, John Manley, has stated: "There is no quick-fix scenario." Dealing with the terrorist challenge requires that we all pull together and focus our energies on finding effective solutions.

And this is exactly what Mr. Manley and U.S. Director for Homeland Security Tom Ridge did last week, when they signed a declaration for the creation of a "Smart Border for the 21st Century." It sets out a 30-point action plan identifying and addressing security risks, while efficiently and effectively expediting the legitimate flow of people and goods back and forth across our mutual border.

The declaration will enhance the technology, coordination and information sharing, essential for enforcing a border that protects us, while permitting legitimate commerce that will strengthen our mutual economic security.

Just as importantly, Messrs. Manley and Ridge committed themselves to further meetings over the coming months that will ensure that the undertakings set out in this declaration are met.

On the domestic front in Canada, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien has established a Cabinet Committee on Public Security and Anti-Terrorism, chaired by Mr. Manley. Based on the work of this committee, strong new legislative measures have been put in place to reinforce the work of law-enforcement and national security agencies.

Canada has committed an additional $5 billion (given that Canada is one-tenth the size of the United States, this would be the equivalent of $50 billion in the United States) in new resources to be used in the fight against terrorism.

We have introduced new legislation in parliament to deter and disable terrorist organizations; to provide new investigative tools to law-enforcement and national security agencies; to support more effective prosecution of terrorist crimes; and to ensure that Canadian values are preserved through stronger laws against hate crimes and propaganda. And we moved swiftly faster than any other country in cutting off sources of financing for terrorists.

Multilaterally, Canada joined the United States and other members of the coalition by providing the third-largest contingent of troops in support of the international campaign against terrorism.

And Canada has indicated that, if needed, it has a 1,000-strong light infantry unit on stand-by for deployment within an international stabilization force in Afghanistan.

As a final point, I would note that illegal migration is every bit as much a concern in Canada as it is in the United States. Frankly, while Americans are concerned about who is trying to come south, we are just as concerned about who is trying to go north.

More than one-third of the refugee claimants Canada received last year came to us directly from the United States.

The Dec. 3 Joint Statement of Cooperation on Border Security and Regional Migration Issues signed by Mr. Ashcroft and Canada's immigration minister, Elinor Caplan, is designed to address these concerns by jointly focusing our efforts on deterrence, detection and prosecution of security threats, the disruption of illegal migration and the efficient management of legitimate travel.

Canada and the United States are working together to make our mutual border, not only more secure, but more efficient for the purposes of trade.

Not to do so would harm the largest trading relationship in the world 25 percent of U.S. exports go to Canada and give the terrorists an unwarranted victory.

Michael Kergin is Canada's ambassador to the United States.

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