On terror’s trail

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The Article

Senator pushes relentlessly to upgrade Canada’s lagging security standards

I paused as the news flashes of the terrorist bombings in London came over early morning television and reflected on what Senator Colin Kenny had warned a day or so earlier.

“Canada is the only one of six countries that are on an al-Qaida list of targets that hasn’t yet been attacked. Being on the list, but not yet having been attacked, should make us extremely vigilant.”

Then he warned against being even the slightest bit complacent because of our geographic position and what I call the myth Canadians, unlike Americans, have no enemies and are seen throughout the world as a likable, congenial and harmless people, so why bother with them.

“That we have the Atlantic Ocean on one coast, the Pacific on another, the Arctic on our northern border and the United States on our southern border should not make us feel safe and secure.”

After that, the crusading chairman of the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence gave chilling assessments of the lack of security in our airports, sea ports and at our border crossings.

Listening to him talk about the crime families operating in our airports and seaports—all verified by the RCMP—about employees who may have had only a slight background check or none at all but who roam freely into areas they have no right to be, and as to how luggage and cargo are given only cursory checks, if at all, the hair on the back of your head really does start to rise.

His committee—which seems to work non-stop—has already produced 10 reports and is on the “homestretch” of a major defence review to be released in three stages this September, October and November.

Every single past report has zeroed in on loopholes in our security and defence systems and offered scathing denunciations of the lack of funding and understaffing of our military and policing services.

He describes the Great Lakes, for instance, as “gaping holes” in our security system.

Kenny is relentless in his quest for information on our security and defence measures and doesn’t hesitate to fault his own government when he finds inadequacies—which he does frequently.

This, from a man who has been a dedicated Liberal all his life, and was, when I first met him in the early 1970s during my stint in the parliamentary press gallery, a top aide to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

I can’t say I particularly liked Colin then—and knowing my opinion of Trudeau and other Liberal leaders that will surprise no one—but my opinion of him has turned 180 degrees.

Back then, we surely didn’t have much in common.

Today we share the same thoughts and concerns.

Actually, it could well be that because the federal government has already adopted many of the recommendations Kenny’s committee has urged, and is working on adopting more, he and his fellow committee members may have already made the terrorists pause and call off planned attacks.

So far, that is—the harrowing attacks on London, Madrid, against the Australia vacation spot of Bali, and other assaults around the world certainly shouldn’t make us breathe easily.

A month ago, Kenny’s latest report, Borderline Insecure, came out and exposed the worrying state of security at the customs and entry posts dotting our border.

At certain times, 139 of the posts are staffed by just one person, which might only be a student or casual worker with very little experience.

Some 62 posts were not even hooked up to the national data base to enable staffers to check the backgrounds of people passing through.

In 2004, 1,600 people managed to cross the border without stopping and we have no idea who they were or where they are, or why they avoided inspection.

He wants border staff armed with guns—after rigorous training—noting between 2000 and 2004 inspectors confiscated 20,129 prohibited weapons, including 5,446 guns.

All they carry now are batons and pepper spray, and in case of trouble, it can take an hour for a police officer to arrive.

The danger here, after a suspicious or angry driver has been stopped, and police are miles away on another case, is obvious.

Kenny’s accounts are unnerving, even more so because he himself is so rational.

And it’s no exaggeration to say this really may be the man who prevents a real life horror story from happening right in our midst.

Paul Jackson
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