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Borders are ‘security moats’

by Archives February 7, 2007

According to Daniel Drache, ‘flash and dash’ will no longer be tolerated at the American border, says the Director of York University’s Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies.

The border was retooled as a militarized security moat shortly after 9/11, Drache said in a lecture on Canada-U.S. relations at UQAM Jan. 30. Drache refered to the security moat as one of the functions of the border. It will act as “the first line of defence against criminality.” According to the political science professor, 2,000 troops are now standing guard at the American-Canadian border.

Drache said the “discourse of security has been hard to sell to Canadians.” Canada and the United States historically has had the longest unmilitarized border in the world, stretching over 6,500 kilometers. But this situation changed after Sept. 11, 2001 when the two countries signed the Smart Border Declaration to better ensure security for their respective territories. This agreement necessitated creating Integrated Border Enforcement Teams, which in Canada are specially trained RCMP members who work alongside customs agents to prevent trans-border criminality. Drache said the new measures are linked to the fact that the border is an ‘iconic constitution’ to Americans. He later added that there is a prevailing mentality that “anyone who’s not American is an alien,” which has led to the need to protect the country’s interests from ‘aliens’. U.S. border security has already been tightened in the south due to the continuing massive illegal immigration. Federal agencies now estimate the number of Mexican immigrants living illegally in the United States to be around five million.

Now the border to the north appears to be a U.S. security threat, as revealed by the Ahmed Ressam case. Ressam, an alleged terrorist who slipped into Washington via Canada, was arrested and convicted in 1999 for plotting to blow up Los Angeles International Airport.

Drache said events like this one are “very dramatic illustrations on how divergent Canada and the United States are on their security measures.” In fact, these new American security measures are part of a larger offensive “to increase the power of the presidency,” said Drache, in effect forcing “compliance [from] Canada and Mexico.”

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