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Wednesday, 4 September, 2002, 06:41 GMT 07:41 UK
Canada 'vulnerable to terror attacks'
Vancouver
Canada's coastlines may be at risk

A Canadian defence committee report on security has warned that the country's coastlines are extremely vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

The senators who wrote the report are calling on the Canadian Government to reform its coastal monitoring methods and co-ordinate more with the United States.

The committee chairman says he does not want to see Canada become the soft underbelly of North America.

The report's conclusions are being released at a time when the US is asking Canada to increase its military spending.

US criticism

The report says Canada's coastal policing is only designed to deal with low-level crime such as drug or human smuggling.

Canadian prime minister
Prime Minister Chrétien favours social rather than military spending
An incredible number of small harbours and inlets are not patrolled, the committee says.

The report describes the situation as a terrorist's dream.

Along the country's east coast alone, about 850 vessels enter Canadian waters daily.

The Senate report calls on the government to co-ordinate more efficiently the disparate agencies and policing units that monitor Canadian waters.

For the first time, the American Ambassador to Canada, Paul Cellucci, has explicitly declared that the US is concerned that its northern neighbour simply does not spend enough on defence and security.

There has already been plenty of internal criticism about Canada's shrinking armed forces budget, and Mr Cellucci says concern has now spread to the highest levels of the Bush administration in Washington.

But the Liberal government in Ottawa is by no means likely to heed his blunt demand.

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien has announced his retirement in early 2004, and between now and then social rather than military spending seems to be where his priorities lie.

See also:

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