- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 1, 2002

MONTREAL The Port of Montreal is rife with security lapses, ranging from the lack of a significant police force to the presence of workers with criminal records, according to reports by the Canadian government.
Though the port's main problem is smuggling and theft by organized crime syndicates, Canadian lawmakers and intelligence officials who have investigated the country's transportation system have concluded that lax security could open the door to terrorism against Canada and the United States.
"Organized crime elements entrenched within the port environment could potentially facilitate a terrorist infiltration through a mutual arrangement, being either unaware and/or uncaring of the ultimate consequences of their cooperation," the nation's Criminal Intelligence Service Canada wrote in a report issued Aug. 23.
Port officials and dock unions have disputed many of the report's conclusions, but they have acknowledged that security in Montreal will affect how much business it can do with the United States, where security has become paramount.
"Our livelihood also relies on the trust our neighbors to the south [have] in our security efforts," said Dominic Taddeo, president and chief executive of the Port of Montreal, which is owned by the federal government but operated independently. "It would be perilous for our economy if our clients, partners and neighbors were to perceive our infrastructure as insufficiently secure."
The U.S. ambassador to Canada, former Republican Gov. Paul Cellucci of Massachusetts, visited with port officials in June and made the point that Montreal's security is crucial to the United States.
A report by the Canadian Senate, issued in March, concluded that "very little" has been done to control crime in the port since its police unit was disbanded in 1997. Now, the port relies on the Montreal police to investigate crimes, and there is little preventative policing.
Normand Fillion, the port's vice president for marketing and development, complained that the Senate did not contact the port during its investigation. He said the port has a close working relationship with the Montreal police, and that two port security officers were always on duty.
He added that, since September 11, the port had installed a key-card system to control entry by unauthorized people and has closed the main access road to the public.
But the Port of Montreal is open to the casual visitor.
During an official tour of the port given by Mr. Fillion, an in-line skater and two persons on a motorcycle breezed by on the access road, the entrance to which is protected by a gate designed to stop cars and trucks.
A reporter and photographer from The Washington Times were able to walk onto the port grounds on two evenings at dusk, once via the access road. The photographer was able to climb onto and snap pictures of trains carrying containers in and out of the port.
After about 20 minutes, a security officer arrived and warned against climbing on trains but took no other action.
The Senate report cited links between port unions and organized crime as one reason why theft of containers just outside port grounds is a problem. It stated that 15 percent of stevedores and 36 percent of checkers who work in the port have criminal records.
In one case, the Senate found that workers have suspended containers on cranes over the vehicles of customs officials during an inspection "to be 'accidentally' dropped close to inspectors a brutal warning that their lives are at risk." Customs officials told The Washington Times they have had no problems conducting checks.

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