Canada: U.S. won’t put troops on border


TORONTO (AP) – The United States has no plans to deploy the National Guard along its border with Canada as it will along the Mexican border, a Canadian government spokesman said Tuesday.

Canada had expressed concern about how President Bush’s announcement of tougher U.S security at the Mexican border would affect its 3,800-mile border with the United States, and a State Department report last month said Canada’s “liberal” immigration system had allowed terrorists to gain asylum there to raise funds and plan attacks.

Michael Wilson, Canada’s ambassador to the United States, said in New York on Monday that Washington might increase security at the Canadian border in order to show the U.S. Hispanic population that it is being evenhanded.

But Rodney Moore, a spokesman for Canada’s Foreign Affairs department, said Tuesday that the Bush administration said “it has no intention of deploying National Guard units on the Canadian-U.S. border.”

U.S. Embassy officials in Toronto couldn’t be reached for comment late Tuesday afternoon. But Frances Fragos Townsend, Bush’s homeland security adviser, said Monday that the current initiative being pursued by the administration is limited to the southern border, but she did not rule out ever beefing up the northern border in the same way. Officials on both sides of the northern border are already fearing a requirement – to go into effect by the end of 2007 – that all who enter the U.S. must have passports, saying it was likely to hamper commerce and tourism between Canada and the U.S. – the world’s largest trading bloc.

Margot Booth of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada said one study showed it could reduce U.S. visits to Canada by 12.3 percent or 7.7 million trips and cost the Canadian economy $1.4 billion dollars.

Those who enter the U.S. from Canada now need only common forms of identification, such as a driver’s license and a birth certificate.

Canada does not offer anywhere near the same immigration problems as Mexico. Only about 3 percent of the more than one million illegal immigrants enter the United States through Canada each year.

But there is the perception that Canada is a haven for terrorists. American officials have said they are more worried about the border with Canada than Mexico when it comes to terrorists.

David Harris, former chief of strategic planning for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Canada’s counterpart to the CIA, says more than 50 terrorist organizations have a presence in Canada.

“The immigration and refugee situation in Canada is pretty close to being out of control,” Harris said. “I think it would be prudent for the president to reinforce efforts along the Canadian frontier.”

About 1,000 U.S. Border Patrol agents work along the U.S.-Canada border, roughly triple the 2001 force but a fraction of the 9,600 agents who patrol the Mexican border, about half as long at 1,900 miles.

Canada is the United States’ largest trading partner, conducting an estimated $1.5 billion in business daily.