NIAGARA FALLS, Canada — Criticized for its porous borders and lax immigration laws, Canada on Friday announced plans to tighten security by hiring extra immigration officers, detaining more asylum seekers and issuing hard-to-forge identity cards to new residents.
In a separate announcement, the government also said it would give more money to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to shore up security in the wake of the attacks on New York and the Pentagon.
Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan outlined a $31-million package at a news conference at Niagara Falls, Ontario, one of the busiest crossings on the U.S.-Canada border.
The moves, aimed primarily at asylum seekers, will help ensure that people linked to violent groups do not enter the country, she said.
"Canada recognizes that since Sept. 11, the world has changed," Caplan told reporters at the Rainbow Bridge border crossing. "Those who have evil intent--we have to do our part to find them, to stop them from coming to Canada, to protect North America and to work internationally . . . to stop these kinds of events before they happen."
The $31 million is in addition to security funding already announced by the government, including about $58 million for new equipment and extra staff to tighten border and airport security.
Meanwhile, Solicitor General Lawrence MacAulay said Friday that the government will pump an additional $34 million into the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to hire more staff and improve technology, particularly at the border.
"We are determined to be part of the solution to terrorism for the sake of all our citizens," MacAulay said at a news conference in Regina, Saskatchewan.
In other steps, Transportation Minister David Collenette agreed Friday to provide armed air marshals on flights by Air Canada to Washington's Ronald Reagan National Airport.
The United States has insisted that any flights into Reagan National, located close to the White House and other government buildings, include armed marshals. Collenette has rejected the idea for Canadian flights in general, but he agreed to place them on planes bound for Washington.
In addition, new legislation expected to be proposed next week would allow Canadian inspectors to examine lists of incoming passengers before they arrive to identify travelers considered potential terrorist risks.
Caplan also said the Immigration Ministry would begin an "extended but targeted use of detention," leading to longer detention periods for anyone considered a security risk. Last year, Canada detained nearly 9,000 people for an average period of 16 days.
Caplan said Canada would also introduce a tamper-proof identity card for new residents by June to replace the current printed document that is attached to a resident's passport.