Why Borders Matter to Daniel Drache

Canada needs its own security policy on the border with the United States, one that is not tied directly to US domestic policy, says York University Professor Daniel Drache, author of Borders Matter: Homeland Security and the Search for North America.

Right: Daniel Drache

In the book, released on May 4 by Fernwood Publishing, the associate director of York’s Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies examines the debate over the border and the culture of US security. By looking at the complexity of Canada-US relations, Drache details the importance of borders in a world dominated by trade.

“Left unchecked,” observes Drache, “US border policies will continue to undermine Canadian sovereignty with respect to immigration, political refugees, cross-border trade and Canadian foreign policy. Canadians require new principles and a policy framework to be a counterweight to US homeland security in North America and globally.”

The book was released just as Deputy Prime Minister Ann McLellan announced a $690-million government initiative that she billed as Canada’s “first comprehensive and integrated national security policy.”

“This may be something of a ‘first’,” said Drache of the announcement, “but it is still reactive. Spain and France have been able to define their own security policies and Canada should be able to do the same.”

In Borders Matter: Homeland Security and the Search for North America, Drache notes that there has been no public audit of the impact of US homeland security measures and how they affect Canada’s sovereignty. Washington has a coherent vision of its security, while Canada scrambles to respond. “[Prime Minister Paul] Martin needs to do much more than operate in a piecemeal fashion like his old boss,” said Drache. “Canada can’t optimize its assets or play a more effective role internationally if it lacks forethought, planning and skilled positioning.”

The recent report from Auditor-General Sheila Fraser identifying gaps in Canada’s security measures at airports and border crossings brings attention to the mechanics of how our borders need to be secure and just, said Drache. But the report neglects to articulate other approaches the Canadian government must take for Canada as a country to remain secure. Drache poses questions concerning the unilateralism of US homeland security, how US border policy is transforming Canadian sovereignty, why the Canada-US border is so resistant to globalization pressures to dismantle it and the dilemma this border poses to Canadians.

Canada needs to find ways to optimize its leverage, speak with moral and political authority and act on its vital security interests, said Drache. The priority for secondary power countries has to be to rebuild the international system of cooperation, reinforce multilateralism and strengthen the institutions of collective responsibility, he said.