The land border between the US and Canada is the longest in the world. Its total length is 5,525 miles, including the section between Alaska and the two adjoining Canadian territories, British Columbia and the Yukon. However, the amount of petrol and surveillance seems to be small for such great mileage. It has been estimated that between 2000 and 2010, about $90 billion was spent on the reinforcement of the southern border of the US, while less than a billion was allocated to the northern border (“The case for building,” 2017).
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Even though the frontier between Canada and the US may be less troubling than that between the US and Mexico, it still has unsettled issues, which may threaten the countries’ safety. The analysis of problems related to the northern border shows that Canada should continue to work closely with the US in a security partnership to promote joint security and allow shared prosperity.
Legal Traffic Across the Border
The frontier between the US and Canada is an essential part of the economic relationships between the two countries. It is known that they are important trade partners since their exports are interconnected and constitute a significant part of their economies. Every day, about 400,000 people and more than $1.5 billion in goods cross the frontier (U. S. Department of Homeland Security [DHS], 2018). Some of those people are tourists traveling in both directions and contributing to the economic development of the host countries by paying for their trips and spending money in the place of destination.
Given the importance of the trade partner for both countries, Canada and the US should work together on issues related to the border between them, which could hinder them from mutual economic benefits. For example, they could facilitate international trade and travel, as well as improve the security of transporting people and goods. It is also possible to upgrade the infrastructure on the border to reduce delays.
Unfortunately, people cross the border not only with good intentions of fair trade or tourism. One of the most common problems of the frontier is drug smuggling, occurring in both directions. It has been detected that traffickers transport cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico to Canada across the territory of the US (DHS, 2018). At the same time, fentanyl, ecstasy, and marijuana are smuggled from Canada to the United States (DHS, 2018). Drug traffickers constantly develop new ways of transporting illegal substances and choose different routes to avoid being seized (DHS, 2018). Therefore, it is difficult for law enforcement to detect perpetrators crossing the frontier.
Since the border between Canada and the US stretches over various types of topography, smugglers may use it in their favor. For example, drug traffickers sometimes use rocky sections of the frontier to fly private jets at a low altitude so that radars cannot spot them (DHS, 2018). The maritime boundaries between the two countries also may contribute to drug smuggling since it is difficult for law enforcement to detect drug traffickers going by water (DHS, 2018). Thus, the natural characteristics of the northern border make it complicated for both countries to keep track of smugglers and seize them. For this reason, Canada and the US should take joint actions to address this issue.
Apart from drug traffickers, people who cross the border to commit a terrorist act to constitute a threat to national security. They may arrive in the neighboring country through impassable landscapes between ports of entry (DHS, 2018). However, the number of people who cross the frontier in such a way and are apprehended is under 800 per year (DHS, 2018). It is not much compared to the hundreds of thousands of such individuals seized along the southern border (DHS, 2018).
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Although the difficult terrain impedes the illegal crossing of the frontier, there is still a threat of admitting potential terrorists to a country through legal pathways. Both countries have problems with homegrown jihadists, but in Canada, their number is larger (“The case for building,” 2017). Canadian extremists may enter the US through ports of entry without suspicion if they are not registered in the US terrorist watch list (DHS, 2018). Thus, a security partnership could ensure the safety of both nations by improving border monitoring and exchanging the data as to potentially threatening individuals.
Another problem related to the boundary between the two countries is illegal immigration. Canadians are worried about refugees who flee from Mexico to Canada across the territory of the US (“The case for building,” 2017). These asylum seekers want to escape new immigration policies and, therefore, proceed toward Canada rather than stay in the United States (“The case for building,” 2017). They cross the border illegally because, otherwise, they would not be admitted to Canada due to the agreement, according to which refugees have to seek protection from the first safe nation on their way (“The case for building,” 2017). Thus, the US northern neighbor would benefit from a security partnership, limiting the inflow of illegal immigrants.
As for the US, the northern border bothers it far less than the southern one, concerning this issue. In 2016, the patrol seized 2,300 people illegally crossing the frontier with Canada (“The case for building,” 2017). In the same year, more than 400,000 illegal immigrants coming from Mexico were caught on the southern border (“The case for building,” 2017). The difference is striking, and it is likely to discourage the US from paying much attention to fighting illegal immigration on the Canadian frontier. With regard to this issue, Canada is more interested in a security partnership with its neighboring country.
Potential North Korean Missile Attack
The invention of modern weapons poses a new threat to the national security of any country since recently developed bombs and missiles may cause immeasurable damage to the target area. The danger becomes even more real if North Korean missile tests carried out recently are taken into consideration. It seems that governments of other countries regard these tests as a political maneuver demonstrating North Korean power and the ability to strike its enemies. Therefore, the US has developed the ballistic missile defense program (BMD) to protect the nation from a possible attack (The West Block, 2017). Although this program was criticized in the past, it seems to be the only way of protecting America against a strike.
The potential threat of a missile attack provides a strong reason for Canada’s security collaboration with the United States. Although Canada refused to participate in the BMD project in 2005, the situation has considerably changed since that time (The West Block, 2017). First, the BMD program has evolved, and now it provides more confidence that it is capable of confronting a missile attack (The West Block, 2017). Secondly, while the threat from North Korea has become more real than ever, Canada does not have its own system that would protect its residents against a strike (The West Block, 2017). For this reason, the partnership with the US seems to be the only opportunity of defending Canadian citizens if North Korea decides to attack.
However, the US may also hold an interest in Canada’s participation in the BMD program. Political experts say that if a ballistic missile were aimed at the territory of one country, the neighboring nation would also suffer the consequences (The West Block, 2017). It means that if a large Canadian city were attacked, it would also affect the United States, at least economically, since the economies of the two countries are closely intertwined. Canadian politics are disconcerted by the US request for payment for participation in the BMD program (The West Block, 2017). However, it seems to be a reasonable requirement since the US has done a major part of the work, and it may need more money to improve its defense system so that it could protect Canada as well.
To sum up, Canada should continue to work closely with the US in a security partnership. In collaboration with each other, the two countries can struggle against illegal immigration and drug smuggling more effectively. The exchange of information about potentially threatening individuals may help the nations to fight terrorism. The cooperative participation in the BMD may contribute to the improvement of the program and defend the countries against missile attacks. Finally, security collaboration may benefit both states economically by facilitating trade and traveling.
The case for building a wall to keep Canadians out. (2017). The Economist. Web.
U. S. Department of Homeland Security. (2018). Department of Homeland Security Northern border strategy. Web.
The West Block. (2017). Ballistic Missile Defence has suffered from negative coverage: Macdonald. Web.