Hostettler’s gaffe draws rebuke from Canadians

Newspapers across Canada reported Rep. John Hostettler’s views during a hearing Thursday that there’s an enclave of South Asian immigrants in the Toronto area who are radical Islamists, and repeated his quote: “We do not want to have to worry about a neighbor that has a very different attitude than we do about terrorism.”

Reuters reported Friday that those in the Conservative and Liberal parties in Canada called the Indiana Republican “ignorant.”

Bill Graham, head of the Liberal party, asked what the government was doing to “stand up to these unjustified and abusive attacks on Canada, making sure that the American media and the politicians understand and speak the truth?”

Jason Kenney, parliamentary secretary to Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said, “I join with the leader of the opposition in repudiating those completely uninformed and ignorant remarks that we heard yesterday.”

Hostettler’s press secretary did not answer requests for a response.

Bernard Etzinger, a spokesman for the Canadian embassy, said Canada has spent $10 billion on increased border security, and it was the cooperation of Canadian intelligence and U.S. law enforcement that caught a Canadian resident who was planning to bomb Los Angeles’ airport in 1999.

“I think the bottom line is anyone who thinks we’re not working together intensely all of the time doesn’t know the facts,” he said.

Frank Flynn, a resident of Toronto’s suburbs, called the Courier and Press to say Hostettler’s remarks could inspire a boycott of next year’s Indy 500 by Canadian visitors. “I don’t think Americans have any sense of how irritated Canadians are by that kind of intemperate, ill-advised nonsense,” he said.

Kenney tried to soothe the enflamed passions in the Canadian Parliament by saying, “What is important is that . . . there are many members of the U.S. Congress who understand and appreciate the strong actions of the Canadian security forces to maintain continental security.”

At issue are changes to border crossing policy between Canada and the United States. There are 200 million border crossings a year, Etzinger said. Hostettler convened a hearing of the House of Representatives subcommittee on immigration and border security to check on the progress toward creating a passport card, which would cost less than the passport’s $97 application fee.

Currently, Canadians and Americans do not need to show a passport at the border, just proof of identity. Because passports are much harder to forge than driver’s licenses and birth certificates, Congress passed a law that a passport or something just as secure as a passport will be required for Canada-U.S. travel. It has a phased deadline, but by the end of 2007, everyone will need a passport, or, if they exist, passport card, to drive or walk across the Canadian-U.S. border.

Canadians and the U.S. Senate favor extending the deadline until June 2009, to make sure there’s a cheaper alternative to the passport, because they fear that requiring a passport would hurt tourism and other economic ties. Etzinger said they want a security improvement, but said if a passport card is not ready in time, “There is a burden that’s being placed on people who are not a threat.”

None of the Democrats or Republicans on Hostettler’s committee said they wanted to extend the deadline.

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