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Fortress North America

Billions of dollars pumped into Canadian security

Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Jan 07/02) - Canada is a country on alert.

On Oct. 12, an anti-terrorism plan was launched with $59 million going to the RCMP. The money was for technology, protection for important people and government buildings, security at airports, ports, and the U.S. border.

NNSL Photo

Be prepared at the border

Canadians rack up more than 80 million visits to the U.S. annually, 3.4 million outside the U.S.

Requests for passports are up 26 per cent since Sept. 11. Border officials, especially the U.S. ones, want ironclad identification, according to one senior DFAIT official. Have the proper documentation, the official advised, before you leave the country.

Kids need passports these days too, especially single parents where custody will be questioned.

On budget day last December, a further $1.6 billion over five years went to both the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

CSIS has almost 2,100 employees and a budget of $194 million. An agency official said their investigations averaged about 500 cases a year, involving both suspicious individuals and organizations inside Canada. They gather information and assess terrorist threats. It's the Canadian equivalent of the FBI.

The Canadian military, represented by Col. Tim Grant, puts on a brave face over their capabilities. They were ready for anything, Grant said but two points pierced his armour. A reporter asked how Canada's equipment stacked up against other countries. Grant replied they were only significantly behind the United States in a class of its own.

The reporter asked why European countries had larger numbers of tanks and planes compared with Canada. Grant smiled thinly. "I meant quality, not quantity."

The other point Grant scooted around had to do with plans for the largest undefended border in the world - Canada's Arctic. Grant said there were ongoing discussions with Northern Area Headquarters and Vice-Admiral Greg Maddison, deputy chief of the defence staff and the number two ranking officer in the Canadian military. He could not give details.

Col. Kevin Mcleod, commander of the Canadian Northern Forces Area Headquarters, confirmed there have been discussions on Northern capabilities with Maddison. Mcleod told Maddison what he wants in terms of satellite and communication technology and personnel but there are no huge changes planned. He said judging from a recent trip to Alaska, the U.S. is satisfied with the Northern defence system of NORAD and space-based systems.

"Things have changed Ottawa side," he said. "Anything to do with security and sovereignty is high on the list."

The military got $1.6 billion in Finance Minister Paul Martin's recent budget. Security for air travel got $2.2 billion over the next five years and $1.2 billion will be spent on making the Canada-U.S. border more efficient and secure.