- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 10, 2002

The longest undefended border in the world lies between the U.S. and Canada. In the Age of Terror, that longest undefended border has become a problem with no immediate solution. Some facts:
More than 200 million people cross the border each year. That's 550,000 people a day, almost Boston's population.
Some $1.3 billion dollars in commerce crosses the border each day.
Eighty-seven percent of Canada's merchandise exports and a quarter of all U.S. exports cross that border.
More goods cross the bridge between Detroit and Windsor than all of U.S. trade with Japan.
For 38 States, Canada is their largest trading partner.
Since September 11, movement of goods has suffered long and costly delays at the border and at seaports. One step taken last month to improve matters has been the assignment of U.S. customs officers at Canadian seaports Halifax, Montreal and Vancouver to pre-screen U.S.-bound containers. More than 500,000 containers each year are unloaded at the three Canadian seaports and shipped to the United States. Canadian customs officers will be assigned to the Seattle-Tacoma and Newark, N.J. seaports.
But these palliatives barely touch the problem, especially immigration. So one of the world's leading think-tanks, the Canadian Fraser Institute, has come up with an idea that will surely raise protests among those Canadians who fear loss of Canadian sovereignty. The Fraser idea calls for establishing a North American perimeter, just as the European Union has done by establishing a common perimeter around Europe, thereby abolishing internal borders. In speaking of the advantages of abolishing internal boundaries and establishing common entry controls to North America, Fred McMahon, a Fraser executive, says:
"Imagine the boost to Canadian businesses if goods could move across the Canada-U.S. border as quickly as they can the German-French border. Imagine the convenience for individual Canadians crossing the border."
Mr. McMahon, director of the Fraser Center for Globalization Studies, is critical of the Liberal government because, he says, its response to the perimeter issue has been "slow, contradictory, secretive and often bizarre," and he adds, "Failure to get this right could be devastating for Canadian prosperity and jobs." His recommendations are to be found in the think tank's publication, Fraser Forum.
The Chretien government has talked about "visa convergence," without defining its meaning. Its spokesperson, Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan, told the House of Commons: "When you say 'perimeter,' people think of the European model where you ease the internal borders. That is not what we're talking about."
The big problem both for Canada and the U.S. is immigration. Mr. McMahon says Canada's border controls are "a mess." Shortly after September 11, Canada's immigration officials acknowledged that they could not find 27,000 "refugees" who had been ordered deported. A North America perimeter policy would mean coordination of Canadian refugee and immigration policy with the U.S. so as to tighten border controls. Our immigration policing is in equal mess if not worse.
As matters stand now, according to Mr. McMahon, illegitimate refugees or terrorists destroy their identification papers on a flight to Canada, arrive without papers and are allowed to enter the country on a claim of refugee status. Little attempt is made to verify their claim.
Nothing much is going to be done, says Martin Collacott, a former Canadian ambassador in Asia and the Middle East, because amendments to the Immigration Act are "designed to gain political support for the Liberal Party at considerable cost to the economy and serious implications for the stability of Canadian society." Mr. McMahon confirmed that finding:
"Immigration boards are scandalously stacked with unqualified political hacks, and the votes of ethnic groups, particularly in Toronto, are bought with favorable immigration rules."
As for Canadian government apprehension that becoming part of a North American perimeter would rob Canada of its uniqueness, Mr. McMahon points out that within the EU perimeter "nations vary more than do Canada and the United States in taxes and spending."
It is highly unlikely that a North American perimeter will be established while Jean Chretien is Canada's Liberal prime minister. He is a true heir to the late Pierre Trudeau, whose anti-Americanism as Canada's prime minister was legendary. Nor is it certain that Mr. Chretien's successors will view a North American perimeter with any more enthusiasm. Will it take another September 11 to persuade the Canadian government to consider the North American perimeter idea as an essential in the Age of Terror?

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