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"We have to have the courage to go to Washington, D.C., and make certain that Canada is not treated as a foreign country."

That was Mayor Paul Dyster, as quoted by intrepid journalist Mark Scheer last week in the Niagara Gazette. For a guy who claims to have worked for the U.S. State Department, Dyster's staggering ignorance is nothing short of astonishing.

Where to begin? Aside from the fact that Canada is actually a foreign country, debate continues on whether or not it was also the country that some of the 9/11 hijackers entered the United States from a decade ago.

According to a 2002 report by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, "There are more international terrorist organizations active in Canada than anywhere in the world.

"This situation can be attributed to Canada's proximity to the United States which currently is the principal target of terrorist groups operating internationally; and to the fact that Canada, a country built upon immigration, represents a microcosm of the world. It is therefore not surprising that the world's extremist elements are represented here, along with peace-loving citizens."

The border between the United States and Canada is 5,525 miles long and is largely unguarded. In fact, a recent report to Congress by the GAO indicated that just 32 miles of that vast stretch has what is considered to be an acceptable level of security.

Of course, Dyster has repeatedly shown himself to be unconcerned about security, other than his own. He has diverted city police officers from crime-fighting to more prosaic missions,

like accompanying building inspectors looking for infractions by property owners.

He's ordered stepped-up patrols around public buildings and offices, leaving places like Pierce Avenue and 19th Street as havens for terrorists of a different sort, the violent street gangs that are as much a part of inner-city life as graffiti and gunfire.

And speaking of 19th Street, the police substation that opened there with much ballyhoo in 2009 sits locked and dark most of the time these days, even as an officer spends 40-plus hours a week guarding the lobby at City Hall.

There has, incidentally, never been a crime committed in the lobby at City Hall, but try telling that to a guy who doesn't think Canada's a foreign country.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com March 1, 2011