The day the national dailies were trumpeting about Prime Minister Jean Chrétien¹s latest round of Bush-bashing, senior members of Canada's law-enforcement and security and intelligence communities quietly gathered for a ground-breaking conference in Montreal last Thursday to hear a status report on U.S.-Canada relations. "Amazing," said a top Montreal cop as he exchanged business cards with law-enforcement and counterintelligence agency members from across Canada and the U.S. "I mean, where else in the world could a crowd like this gather without any security?" Half an hour later, former CIA Director James Woolsey and Dale Watson, former director of the FBI¹s counterterrorism division were telling them they¹re fighting World War IV and Canada could be the next target of the inevitable next attack.
The double-barrelled message was delivered to a by-invitation-only room under the auspices of Beryl Wajsman's Institute for Public Affairs of Montreal. Participants included many of Canada¹s top political, security ,business and labor leaders. Experts from the military, law-enforcement and civilian security agencies and the security industry also attended.
This is not a crowd used to checking their sidearms or turning off their cellulars at the door, but phones rang unanswered as Woolsey detailed the forces of Islam arrayed against the West. After describing Baathist fascists, Wahhabi zealots and Iran's terror-exporting Shia theocracy, Woolsey focussed on the Western world's failure to respond to obvious clues. "I think we gave a lot of evidence to Saddam and to the Islamist Shia in Tehran and Hezbollah and to the Islamist Sunni that we were for a long time, essentially a rich, spoiled, feckless country that wouldn't fight," Woolsey said.
"9/11 taught America¹s security forces to look at security the way a terrorist would", Woolsey said. "Just-in-time delivery means 50,000 containers crossing America¹s borders every day without the time to check
them all for fissionable material; streamlined healthcare networks that mean there won't be enough hospital beds in the event of a major bioterror attack; the functional equivalent of the flimsy cockpit doors that allowed a team of terrorists with box-cutters to hijack four jetliners on 9/11."
If Woolsey's wakeup call had them listening, FBI counterterror veteran Dale Watson froze the coffee cups in mid-sip with his opening comments: "We're going to be attacked again... Canada could be the next target."
The U.S., Watson said, expects Canada to work on three areas " integration of security forces along our shared border, a tougher immigration policy and homeland security. But don't rely on government to do the job all by itself," Watson warned. "Businesses must learn to protect themselves by building redundency and security into everything they do." Canada-U.S. politics? "A bump in the road, but it'll get straightened out,"said Watson. Will it affect business interests? "Probably so...We're all together in this, but I'd like to get Canada¹s backing." If Canada wants to be an international player, it¹s going to cost, said
Watson ".. in re-equpping the military, in upping contributions to peacekeeping and joint defence initiatives, such as NATO."
Former Canadian Alliance Leader Stockwell Day, now the party's foreign affairs critic, said Canadians are sick of Chrétien-style U.S.-bashing. "People have been willing to put up with Mr. Chretien's personal anti-American philosophy in past years, but now that we realize the extreme ramifications of that, people are saying they've had enough...they've realized it's actually hurting Canada. I believe the next level of realization for Canadians is that this view is not uniquely a Chrétien view. This visceral anti-Americanism is a larger stream that runs through the large-L Liberal community in Canada."
Day said the conference was a turning point for those in Canadian law enforcement, counterintelligence industry and labor. "What it will do for a number of people from across Canada who are here,who have thought that their own concerns were in isolation, they are now getting a sense that this is broadly felt, and more people will be encouraged to speak out, not worried about the risk of being accused of being blatantly pro-American."