Life in a capital city can be interesting. More than once as we’ve been downtown we’ve seen motorcades of window-tinted black SUV’s moving at high speed through the city with their important–or self-important–passengers. They squeal up to the door of a government building and security people spill out of all the doors, earpieces affixed, eyes darting, weapons within reach. It seems incongruous in a city where the House of Commons grounds are also home to a picnic gazebo overlooking the Ottawa River and a refuge for stray cats.
The Ottawa Citizen’s headline story this morning was about the arrest of two local men yesterday who are suspects in a terrorist plot that may have al-Qaeda connections. Both are unassuming, polite Muslim men, one married with a child, who have been under surveillance for a long time. This was a joint investigation by municipal police, the RCMP and a Canadian spy agency. More arrests are expected, and the two men will appear in court this morning to be charged.
Ottawa is such a quiet town. Why would people be interested in plotting to commit terrorist acts here–or anywhere else in Canada? I think the answer lies in the fact that Canada is not only the next-door neighbour of the USA, but closely associated with it philosophically and culturally and, most importantly, provides some of its essential services. Did you know, for instance (I read this in the Citizen this morning, so it must be true) that New York’s power actually comes from Quebec? It may be that even though Canadian places and services may be targets because of Canada’s ongoing presence as a US ally in Afghanistan, the main interest of terrorist cells in this country is that Canada is a back-door into the USA.
Another interesting piece in today’s paper that may be of interest to Americans was about the growing recognition from all sides that the Canadian health care system is sick (sic). Though there are many across the border, especially in that other capital city, who view the Canadian model as worthy of emulation, don’t ever think this is a perfect system. Though the level of care available here is second to none, the accessibility of that care and the inefficiency of delivery are the big problems. Not to mention the cost to the federal and provincial governments, which of course represents the cost to citizens.