TORONTO -- Canada's security net is full of holes, with most border crossings guarded by a lone staffer and airport security so lax that missing security badges and uniforms recently turned up for sale on eBay.
A new Senate security report calls for reform, a boost in defense spending and improved cooperation with the United States. Canadians have relied too long on luck to avoid a terrorist attack, it says, scolding: "Unfortunately, luck is notoriously untrustworthy."
The 315-page report by the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defense, the first released under the year-old government of Prime Minister Paul Martin, said most of Canada's 160 land and maritime border crossings have only one person at the posts.
"The potential damage to the Canadian economy and other consequences that would come with allowing a terrorist to infiltrate the U.S. through Canada are massive," the report said.
Securing the 4,000-mile border is paramount, to prevent terrorist attacks and protect some $1.4 billion in trade each day between the North American neighbors.
"All it would take is a serious terrorist incident, caused by someone slipping through Canada, to shut down the border, and that would be an absolute disaster," said Robert Bothwell, a professor at the University of Toronto who specializes in U.S.-Canadian relations.
The report, which some are calling alarmist and ineffectual -- as it comes from the politically appointed upper house of parliament -- noted that Canadian forces have been hit with budget cuts of about 30 percent between 1988 and 2000.