Tuesday, January 18, 2011


The Canadian Security intelligence Service (CSIS) has a list of people "permanently bound to secrecy" under the country's Security Information Act. I am not one of them.

In the nation's capital nothing happens quite by accident. All the more so when a "control freak" is at the helm, as others have described the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper.

Last fall when a draft communications plan to sell Canadians on a secretive agreement with the Obama Administration titled: "Beyond The Border; A Shared Vision For Perimeter Security And Competitiveness" was leaked to the media, Canada's government went into overdrive to deny the agreement was set for President Obama and Prime Minister Harper signatures in January. It's an omnibus agreement which aims to facilitate the cross-border transfer of goods and services between our two nations in the aftermath of the so-called "thickening of our 5000 mile border" since the savage terrorist attacks of 9/11.

Supporters and proponents of the deal say a North American perimeter security pact is the obvious next logical step. Despite its reluctance to confirm the details of any agreement in the works, the Federal Government has trotted-out a number of high profile public supporters of the "shared vision" including five former Canadian Ambassadors to Washington and several former Government officials involved in the Free-Trade Accord of the 1980's and its subsequent follow-up evolution the "North American Free Trade Accord" (NAFTA.)

Of course the Devil is always in details. Even though the Harper Government has been reluctant to clarify just what is involved in this new tentative deal with the American Government, the widely anticipated "tete-a-tete" between President Obama and Prime Minister Harper has been delayed while officials grapple with the details of the accord. There are a couple of "sticky" issues, and recent seemingly unrelated developments within Canada, may (in fact) be designed to allay American demands and / or concerns. They involve both Canada's northernmost border, as well as our southern border along the United States.

U.S. Homeland Security has identified a serious flaw in the country's strict control over who enters and leaves American soil: It is done at airports and seaports, but there is no way to track who is leaving the United States along the dozens of land-routes which enter into Canada. The fear is that terrorists, extremists and others who would do harm can drive across the border and grab a flight out of Canada without knowledge. As an essential part of the "perimeter" agreement, Homeland Security wants the Canada Border Services Agency's (CBSA) list of who is entering the country from the United States. The issue could be directly related to the Harper Government's adamant rejection of additional landing rights in Canada for the Middle Eastern air carriers "Emirates Airline" and "Etihad Airways." The resulting diplomatic rift has led to the cancellation of Canada's nine-year military lease on a Middle Eastern airfield used to transfer troops and supplies to Afghanistan; as well as unprecedented Visa restrictions for Canadians wishing to enter the United Arab Emirates.

Up at the Arctic border, America's giant Massachusetts based defence contractor Raytheon covets the management contract for the North Warning System (NWS). On 9/11, NORAD lost significant minutes in tracking the five hijacked passenger jets over the United States because it's Radars, like the guns of France's fabled "Maginot Line," were aimed "out of country" rather than inward...I digress. The remotely monitored "North Warning System" Radars built in 1992 are controlled from an underground bunker in North Bay, Ontario, but it's a joint Alberta and first nations (Inuit) firm that holds the maintenance contract. Raytheon has its sights on the contract worth about $70-Million per year of which about 60% is paid by the American Government. It expires in the fall. The 47 automated Radar sites are located on Inuit land, and the Aboriginal have invoked land-claims agreements to kibosh the Harper Government's international tender-call.

The volatility intensifies if you add a potential Canadian Federal election in the not too distant future. Critics and opponents of the proposed "perimeter security" agreement are claiming already that the additional collaboration with Homeland Security and the U.S. Defence establishment poses serious Canadian privacy and sovereignty concerns.

Ultimately improving the flow of goods and services between our two countries is a worthwhile objective. However in its current context, the political cost may be beyond any national party's ability to withstand once the details see the light of day.

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