First, I come back to the issue of perception. I know many of us in this room were probably offended, not once but sometimes twice or three times, by people who should know better, not only by the assertions in the United States--not to mention what was carried on the talk shows--that the perpetrators of 9/11 were people who came from Canada or across the border, but that even when this was pointed out to be clearly incorrect, some people in very high office right now repeated it.
What is deeply disconcerting about that is that these perceptions, once established, can really begin to run. And how do you get at it? In those particular cases, our ambassador and other officials went to see them and said this was not the case, that these were the facts, and they said they understood. But we're dealing here with a big country, where talk shows...and Americans, I think, are even more obsessed about sovereignty than we are. That's always been my argument. So unless the word goes out to the contrary again and again, we're going to have difficulty winning that battle.
Secondly, there is a perception that Canada historically has been a little looser in its treatment of refugees, in its treatment of immigration, and so on, and this perception has sort of gone out. I always like to shock our American friends by saying, “Hey, just stop in your tracks. Government figures estimate that you have roughly 15 million individuals that you know to be in the country, but you have no idea where they are, who they are, or what they're doing.” I say, “You know, when I go to bed at night, I should be a lot more worried about people coming north than you should be worried about people coming south.” I know that sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, and sometimes they look at me in total disbelief. And I think Prime Minister Harper, in his joint conference with President Obama, very strongly emphasized the point, which is often lost on Americans and some Canadians, that the security of the United States is as important to us as it is to Americans, and vice versa.
So I think trying to get that across, but doing it intensively, constantly, has to be done.
I think the second thing that has to be done is this. Where we do have obstacles to cooperation, we have to be really sensible about them. One that has really befuddled us is the argument over privacy, where we had almost reached an agreement on how to deal with individuals who are identified as suspect--that coupled with the issue of who carries guns, who does not carry guns.
The way I tend to look at these things is that these are different times. And as long as the civil rights protocols can be respected on both sides of the border, surely coming to terms with who can carry weapons and who can't carry weapons, who might come to a border point and then decide to walk away, the Americans insisting that that person may be a terrorist and we saying we really have no hold on that individual.... We came up with an idea that said, why not simply take that individual aside, ask him who he is, what he does, where he is, draw your own conclusions, and give a report to the Americans? Anyway, all that came apart, Homeland Security withdrew the opportunity to do some serious cooperation on that, and it continues. To my knowledge, unless my colleagues know otherwise, it continues to be unresolved.
So I think there are some very practical things we can do where, if we apply common sense, we're going to be okay.
And then finally there is the answer of technology. Technology, to me, is the big answer, because you cannot have a 4,000-mile-plus border, huge empty expanses, without using technology. We don't have enough people, nor do the Americans, to police that border all the way across. Now, they've got Predators up in the sky—fortunately, they don't have missiles on them—looking down. But the use of technology, in one way or another.... I'm not offended by the Predators, as long as they're looking on both sides of the border.