What do Syncrude, B.C. Marine's ferry to Tsawwassen and Parliament Hill have in common? They are all potential targets for terrorism, says U.S. Secretary of Defence Colin Powell. He met this week in Ottawa with Canada's foreign affairs minister, Bill Graham. Also on the hit list are the CN Tower, the Island Ferry, the Air Canada Centre, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Canadian National Exhibition, and the public transport system in Toronto; nuclear facilities in Chalk River, Ont., Point Lepreau, N.B. and Pickering just east of Toronto; Place Ville Marie in Montral; the Peace Bridge in Niagara Falls; the Confederation Bridge between Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick; the Canadian Forces Base in Greenwood, N.S.; the Calgary Stampede; Canada Place in Vancouver; and Jewish synagogues in Montral, Toronto and Winnipeg.
That's quite a list of potential problems, and Secretary Powell kindly provided the likely timing for attacks on most of these places.
But we wish to take exception with the fact that Syncrude is mentioned. Either the United States intelligence community doesn't know there are two other commercial bitumen producers and more on the way near Fort McMurray, or its analysis is way off the mark.
First, let's consider why Syncrude might be on the list. Syncrude is a major supplier of oil and gas to the United States. Presumably, terrorists would blow up the facilities to disrupt supply, also causing tremendous environmental damage. That being the case, Suncor, Albian Sands, True North Energy, Japan Canada Oil Sands, Devon Canada Corp., and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. must also be considered targets.
Second, how imminent is a terrorist attack on the oil sands? The operations are located in an area of small population where new people of all ethnic backgrounds are readily recognized. If there is a threat, maybe the terrorists have been quietly in place for some time, but Fort McMurray hardly strikes us as a hotbed of radical fundamentalism. Terrorists who begin now to infiltrate the oil sands operations will be planning many months or years into the future. But the risk of an air attack, like the one that levelled the World Trade Centre in New York City, cannot be completely ruled out.
Yes, it is a chilling thought that an attack on Canada by anyone is a possibility. We urge the good citizens of Northern Alberta not to panic. Be vigilant, and where there is cause for concern, investigate it. But please don't go looking under every rock for trouble that is probably not there.