NEW YORK, Nov. 27, 2016/ Troy Media/ – So much attention has been focused on the possibility of the incoming Trump administration building a wall along the U.S. southern border with Mexico that scant attention has been paid to the much longer border that the United States shares with Canada.
Canadians should be prepared for that to change. There were bipartisan calls for beefed up security that predate the Trump victory and are now likely to find receptive ears.
Donald Trump has said that he “loves Canada” and has no plans for a barrier. He was forced to make such a pronouncement after GOP nomination rival and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker floated the idea during the primaries.
But barriers come in all forms – some human, some technological and all of them political.
This year, Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota co-sponsored a bill with recently defeated Republican senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire that called on the Department of Homeland Security to allocate funds specifically for the recruitment of more border patrol agents along the northern frontier.
Only 2,200 agents are responsible for patrolling the 6,400-kilometre border between Canada and the lower 48 states. This number is up five times since 2001 but is still dwarfed by the more than 18,000 agents deployed along the 3,200-kilometre border with Mexico.
Expect both numbers to take a dramatic jump under President Trump.
It is not only the challenging and mostly sparsely populated terrain playing a part in the calls for increased vigilance. It is also Canada’s perceived willingness to accept refugees from the Middle East that some believe could pose terrorist threats to the U.S.
A growing faction of lawmakers worries that such terrorists could use Canada as a staging area and – in essence – that they could simply walk across a poorly monitored section of the border.
Mike Cuffe, a Montana state legislator, lives seven kilometres from the border in the town of Eureka and told the Wall Street Journal, “I do worry about it.” That legislators at both the state and national level are turning their attention northwards at a time when everyone else seems to be focusing on Mexico is a harbinger of things to come.
Most Canadians were insulted after Sept. 11, 2001, when it was erroneously suggested that some of the hijackers entered the United States through Canada and that Canada’s lax security was somehow to blame. Frustratingly, this absolutely false information is still widely believed in some circles.
Christine Constantin, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Embassy in Washington, told the Wall Street Journal in September that “a threat to one country is a threat to the other” and that Canada has a “zero tolerance” policy towards any refugees suspected of terrorist ties.
But many Americans do not take comfort in her words and focus instead on the fact that Canada swiftly resettled 25,000 Syrian refugees since November 2015 and wonder if it is even logistically possible to assert that such a high number of people could have possibly been thoroughly vetted in so short a time.
The decision by the Liberal government to drop the visa requirement for Mexican citizens set to take effect Dec. 1 could also come into play should it result in migrants from that country seeking to do an end-run around a potential Trump wall by illegally entering the U.S. through Canada.
Gone forever are the pre-9/11 days when Canadians could often cross the border with little more than a smile and a wave.
Most Canadians feel a sincere kinship with the U.S. and many believe themselves entitled to a kind of special access where the strict rules don’t fully apply to them as they would to others.
It could be that the coming months will remind them that this feeling is not mutual and the Americans view us as two very separate countries indeed.
Troy Media columnist Gavin MacFadyen is a U.S. based writer and occasional lawyer. Gavin is included in Troy Media’s Unlimited Access subscription plan.
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