In the Chamber -- Grant Mitchell's Blog

Senate Defence Committee visit to Washington, DC: Feb 2011

Posted 2/28/2011 by Grant Mitchell

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Members of our Senate Committee on National Security and Defence visited Washington, DC, on a fact finding tour in February. This committee has had a great history of very effective work on a broad range of national security and defence issues over the ten years of its existence. From time to time, the committee visits Washington to exchange ideas and information with officials there and to nurture and sustain working relationships.

Many issues are currently on the national security and defence agenda between our countries:

1. Thickening of the border has both security and economic/trade implications. A broad Canadian concern is that trade and commerce not be unduly burdened by security measures that might be excessive. There is some understanding of this concern amongst Homeland Security staff with whom we met and a good deal of sympathy with our concern was expressed by Senator Collins of Maine.

2. We met with Senator John McCain of Arizona who was clearly aware of Canada’s contribution in Afghanistan and very grateful for it and for our decision to remain in a training role with the Afghan National Army. It was disconcerting to hear him refer to the 9/11 terrorists who he still thinks came through Canada.  He has serious border issues in his state of Arizona and is concerned that our shared border – with the US – is largely unsupervised.

3. We discussed the new “perimeter security” accord between our countries. As new as it is, there is only preliminary understanding of what it will entail. It seems that it will involve cooperative intelligence gathering and sharing. It also will entail the “Shiprider” program which involves joint force policing of shared US/Canada waterways.  We are just in the process of deliberating on Bill S-13 that facilitates the implementation of the treaty governing the “Shiprider” program.

4. We had a great meeting with Ambassador Doer who was very impressive, engaging and informative. He faces some big Canada/US issues including the “thickening” border, the credibility of Alberta oil sands oil in the US and shared security concerns.

5. I left with a sense that the US officials we met appreciate our relationship, our help in Afghanistan, the need to address border efficiency and the need for more secure energy sources for the US.

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