Friday, June 16, 2006

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper yesterday announced new measures to help increase his country’s capability to detect and respond to potential terrorist attacks, committing $254 million over the next two years to bolster Canada’s transportation systems.

“We need to better ensure that Canada does more to prevent terrorism at home,” Mr. Harper said during a speech in Toronto. “Although we witnessed how successfully our security and intelligence services work together two weeks ago, we need to do more to protect our people and our institutions.”

Mr. Harper noted that the $254 million commitment was part of a $1.4 billion proposal by the government to enhance national security overall. Canada has spent nearly $8 billion on security and other anti-terrorism measures since the September 11, 2001, attacks.

His comments came in the wake of arrests two weeks ago in Canada of members of a suspected terrorist cell. They are accused of conspiring to bomb government buildings and landmarks in Toronto and Ottawa. Canadian authorities charged 17 Muslim men and teens in what has been called Canada’s largest counterterrorism operation.

Canadian authorities have said more arrests are possible, and U.S. officials are investigating possible ties between those arrested in Canada and suspected terrorists in this country.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said the suspected terrorist cell had taken delivery of 3 tons of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer that can be mixed with fuel oil to produce an explosive. One ton of the fertilizer was used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 persons.

Pam Lambo, spokeswoman for the Canadian government in Washington, said yesterday the new plan will seek to improve the country’s transportation system by investing in improvements in the screening of cargo at airports, to increase air-passenger monitoring, to better secure the nation’s rail system and to enhance port security.

About $133 million will go to the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, she said, to respond to increasing air-passenger volumes and corresponding operating pressures; and $95 million will go to rail and marine security to fund enhanced high-risk passenger rail and transit security operations, to establish a new passenger rail and urban transit security contribution program, and to provide financial assistance to commuter rail and public transit operators in designated major metropolitan areas.

She said $26 million will go for air-cargo security initiatives designed to enhance existing air-cargo security measures. The initiatives, she said, include measures to ensure the integrity of air-cargo security throughout the supply chain, as well as to ensure the evaluation of screening technologies.

“Canada can choose to ignore terrorism, but terrorism will not ignore Canada,” Mr. Harper said. “Our new government is prepared to act, and the measures announced today will better secure Canada and help protect the Canadian way of life.”

Mr. Harper was named prime minister after leading the Conservatives to a minority government victory in the January federal election, which ended more than 12 years of Liberal government.

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