Earlier in the week, I wrote an article regarding border security. Within that article, I posed the question "[t]o what extent do we, as a nation, want or need to secure the border with Canada?" Based on that question, I was the beneficiary of some thoughtful comments. As such, I find it necessary to offer a follow-up piece, in an attempt to clarify the state of U.S.-Canadian relations, cooperation and joint efforts toward securing our shared borders.


I noted, in a quote from a Politico article, that the northern border was "the only land border al Qaeda has ever actually used to sneak into the United States." Gazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer and Ahmed Ressam did enter the U.S. from Canada. Both of these men, however, were thwarted before unleashing bombs in the New York City subway system and at LAX airport, respectively. Mezer, detained by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service thrice, was free on bond and had reportedly left the U.S. when a tip led New York City police to his apartment, where they found a pipe bomb and promptly arrested Mezer and his co-conspirator. Ressam left Victoria, British Columbia via ferry, but was stopped at the Port Angeles, Wash. by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Thus, is it worth noting that no successful terrorist attack on the United States has occurred from someone crossing the border from Canada. Moreover, these plots occurred prior to 9/11, which is worth noting because border security has advanced since.

For example, Canada has created Integrated Border Enforcement Teams (IBET), designed after 9/11 with an "even greater emphasis on combating trans-national crime and ensuring border integrity." The 15 IBETs, located from British Columbia and Washington state in the West to New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Maine in the East, are designed to "secure flow of people; secure flow of goods; secure infrastructure; and coordination and information sharing in the enforcement of these objectives."

A program between the U.S. Coast Guard and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police known as "Shiprider" allows for joint law enforcement and security across the maritime border between Canada and the United States. The Shiprider program features vessels with jointly trained personnel patrolling the border, allowing cross-border surveillance and interdiction under the command and laws of the country of operation.

Importantly, Canada is a key ally in the fight against global terror. One of the ways that it plays a major role is its participation as one of the so-called "Five Eyes." The Five Eyes — the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — agree to share intelligence and clearly have strong historical and cultural bonds. According to Margaret Warner of PBS, "While the U.S. has worldwide satellite surveillance abilities, the club benefits from each member's regional specialty, like Australia and New Zealand's in the Far East." On Oct. 16, Steven Blaney, the Canadian minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, announced pending legislation to improve and update Canadian Security Intelligence Service capabilities. According to Blaney, "Our Government remains committed to ensuring the safety of Canadians and protecting our borders. Terrorism remains the leading threat to Canada's security. Global conflict, particularly the barbaric acts of violence perpetrated by the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), serve as a reminder of our obligation to address this threat. That is why our Government will update the CSIS Act to allow our security and intelligence service to better operate and investigate threats to Canada's national security from beyond our borders. We will continue to ensure that those who risk their lives to ensure the safety and security of Canadians have the tools and resources needed to do their jobs."

In a recent interview, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said that "Homeland Security means striking a balance between basic security and preserving the freedom to travel, to associate, and preserving the values we have in this country and that I believe Canadians also have: we cherish diversity, we cherish our immigrant heritage, we cherish privacy, our civil liberties. And we are not a people who are afraid and hide." In short, to answer the question posed, many steps have been taken to secure the northern border. And we have our friends to the north to thank for much of those efforts.

Gibson is an associate professor of political science at Westminster College in Missouri.