- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 17, 2005

If poet Robert Frost was right when he wrote “Good fences make good neighbors,” the opposite might also be true: that bad fences make bad neighbors.

We have just that kind of situation with our supposedly friendly neighbor to the north. Perhaps the recent meeting between President Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin might result in getting something done about the dangerous disrepair of the Canadian side of the border, which endangers the United States.

Criticism of the Canadian border porosity comes not from impatient Americans but in a detailed report of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers’ union. The report describes a pretty hairy situation about which the Canadian government is presently in denial.

According to the National Post, which obtained a copy of the report: “Gaps in Canada’s border security are so severe that an airport accepts international passengers without on-site immigration checks, a marine border unit has no boat, a computer glitch systematically hides information about dangerous terrorists and officers at 62 border crossings are unable to link to a computer to screen incoming passengers.”

The picture gets worse:

? There are 225 unguarded Canadian cross-border roads.

? Computer systems and watch lists are unamalgamated and inaccessible.

? Important databases unavailable to security officers.

Among critical problems CBSA officers cited is the Deer Lake airport in western Newfoundland. International commercial charter flights from London arrive at Deer Lake but there is no customs service to check incoming passengers and baggage.

It is utterly ridiculous that the five-man Customs Marine Verification Team supposed to patrol the Thousand Islands in the St. Lawrence River and search boats crossing the U.S.-Canada border has no boat of its own, says the National Post.

Along two of the unguarded roads in the Quebec town of Stanstead more than 250 unidentified vehicles illegally enter Canada each month. The province of Quebec has 107 unguarded roads. Anybody with time and reasonably good health can get in and out of Canada with little difficulty.

The National Post expose offered this story as an example of what happened and what could have happened:

Last summer, U.S. border agents barred entry to a man traveling from Manitoba because he was believed dangerous. He was escorted back to the Canadian border crossing where a lone agent was on duty. Since CBSA agents are barred from carrying firearms, the agent called Canada’s police agency, the RCMP, which arrived two hours later. The CBSA report says: “U.S. Border Patrol officers were kind enough to stand by while our member dealt with this dangerous individual on the Canadian side and waited for the RCMP to arrive.”

This kind of foul-up is said typical at the U.S.-Canadian border. There is little U.S. border patrols can do but grin and bear it.

Arnold Beichman, a Hoover Institution research fellow, is a columnist for The Washington Times.

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