Ottawa says border rules are OK
By CAMPBELL CLARK
Friday, September 14, 2001
OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and other government officials said yesterday the Canadian government is not changing immigration and border-control policies in response to Tuesday's terrorist attacks in the United States, apart from increased checks already imposed.
Despite opposition calls for a revamp after the attacks, Mr. Chrétien said rules regulating who comes into Canada will not be changed now; Revenue Minister Martin Cauchon said he will stick to his 18-month-old action plan and suggested there will be no permanent, general increase in border controls.
The government's reaction is still focused on emergency measures and the international response, but Mr. Chrétien and his ministers indicated yesterday they planned no policy shifts on border, immigration and security issues.
In the short term, Mr. Chrétien said that Canada is not moving to impose any new visa restrictions.
"We have not changed anything at this moment in terms of immigration. The laws will apply as they are now," Mr. Chrétien said.
However, Canadian Alliance Leader Stockwell Day said several reviews have indicated Canada is a "soft spot" for terrorism and the government must review its immigration and security measures.
"At times like this, it requires full evaluation," he said. "We know, and we will bring out in detail on Monday, that Canada is seen as a bit of a soft spot in this particular area of undesirable people, possibly criminal elements, being able to gain access to our country."
Mr. Chrétien did not respond directly to a call earlier this week from U.S. Ambassador Paul Cellucci for similar continental immigration and border rules to establish a common North American perimeter.
"Obviously we have to work with the United States on this problem, because this is a problem that affects all countries in the world," Mr. Chrétien said.
A spokesman for Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan noted that a new immigration bill, which makes it easier for Canada to expel people deemed security threats, is already before Parliament. Officials said there was no new move to review immigration policy in light of Tuesday's attacks.
Mr. Cauchon said his customs officials are in daily contact with U.S. border officials and they have so far not asked Canada to make any specific changes to its border controls, or indicated they will change requirements for Canadians travelling to the United States.
Several media have reported that some of the suspected hijackers may have entered the United States from Canada, although the Prime Minister and Canadian security officials said yesterday they had no evidence of such a link.
Mr. Cauchon said there is no need for more money for customs enforcement.
"Our intervention as customs officers will fluctuate and vary as does the risk," he said.