Progressive politics, ideas & culture


Canada the Naive?

This Magazine Staff

Former terrorism-czar Richard A. Clarke’s very scary speculative fiction in the February issue of The Atlantic has been gnawing its way into my brain of late —paranoia r us — and no more so than during my recent travels to and from Ottawa. Hearing Anna Maria Tremonte’s (host of CBC Radio’s The Current) account of her relatively security free flights from the Canadian north this week helped the worry along.

Here’s what I’m talking about — I lived four blocks away from a terrorist attack in Ottawa in March 1985. Armenian gunmen stormed the Turkish embassy on a quiet residential street, killing a Canadian security guard and wounding the ambassador. Later that month, threats by the same group nearly shut down the Toronto subway, as security guards searched garbage containers for explosive devices. Neither of these cities are terrorism virgins. One of them contains our government, and the other is the economic engine of Canada.

How strange a feeling then to be sitting on a train traveling between these cities, a train full of people and luggage that went through exactly zero security checks on the way in. No xrays, no dogs walking past the lineups. Not even the most minimal interview you’d get at any airport. I walked from my cab to my seat on the train with only a hi, how are you from some peppy Via employee. My unexamined luggage was then delivered very efficiently into the busiest commuter hub in the middle of the busiest city in the country, at rush hour.

Anybody else find that just a little bit worrisome? I’m sure someone living in Madrid would find that worrisome. Do we REALLY think no-one with bad intentions hasn’t had a look around Canada’s infrastructure?

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