Ever since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Canadian government has struggled to overcome American suspicions that Canada is a haven for terrorists. None of the 9/11 hijackers entered the U.S. from Canada, but that hasn’t prevented what Prime Minister Stephen Harper calls a “thickening” of the Canada-U.S. border. The U.S. government has imposed layer after layer of new security regulations, with the side effect of slowing legitimate trade and travel.
It has now been seven years since the attack, yet fears about the Canadian border don’t appear to be easing. An updated border-security doctrine being taught this fall at the elite Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., shows that our border is still regarded suspiciously. The new version of the institute’s core textbook—required reading for future colonels and generals—outlines serious worries about the Mexican border, then goes on to make this comparison: “The threat along the northern border, while far less publicized, is nevertheless cause for concern—perhaps equal concern, perhaps greater.”
Asked why the Canadian border is still causing the U.S. Army such anxiety, Bert Tussing, a national security professor at the institute who wrote the chapter, repeats a familiar argument. He says that Canada’s immigration and refugee rules make our country more vulnerable than the U.S. to exploitation by foreign terrorists. But his main source for this view is somewhat surprising: “The voices crying loudest on this,” he told Maclean’s, “were not from the U.S., but from Canada.”
In particular, Tussing cites reports on terrorist cells in Canada from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, a Canadian Senate committee, and a Royal Military College of Canada professor. Tussing says it wasn’t a matter of inculcating rising-star army officers with American biases about Canada when he wrote the chapter. He merely assumed that the Canadian experts know their stuff.