CTV | April 22, 2009

Ottawa was rushing to defend its border security on Tuesday amid a diplomatic scuffle with the U.S., which erupted after Washington’s homeland security chief suggested that the 9-11 terrorists entered the U.S. through Canada.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano made the comments during a media interview earlier this week, much to the chagrin of Canadians on both sides of the border.

In recent years, Ottawa has invested a great deal of effort into dispelling perceptions among Americans that Canada’s border is an easy entry point for terrorists planning attacks on U.S. soil.

Senate report: Bush admin. solicited torture ‘wish list,’ ordered ‘communist’ tactics obama 340x169"Unfortunately, misconceptions arise on something as fundamental as where the 9-11 terrorists came from," said Michael Wilson, Canada’s ambassador in Washington.

"As the 9-11 commission reported in 2004, all of the 9-11 terrorists arrived in the United States from outside North America. They flew to major U.S. airports. They entered the U.S. with documents issued by the United States government and no 9-11 terrorists came from Canada."

Later, Napolitano’s staff attempted to tamp down the controversy by blaming the comments on a simple misunderstanding, said Wilson, who was the keynote speaker at the Border Trade Alliance meeting in Washington Tuesday.

"Her comment from her people is that she misunderstood," Wilson said, adding that he was planning a personal meeting with Napolitano in the near future.

The furor began when Napolitano was asked to clarify statements she had made about equal treatment for the Mexican and Canadian borders, despite the fact that a flood of illegal immigrants and a massive drug war are two serious issues on the southern border.

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