2004 March 04 Thursday
Immigration Policy Plays Big Role Making Canada Terrorist Haven

Canada's National Post has managed to get access to a recent report by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) which claims terrorists see Canada as an appealing base from which to raise funds and engage in other activities to support terrorist networks.

In a 22-page assessment of the security threats facing the nation, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service said international terrorists are still using the country as a base for waging worldwide political and religious violence.

"Terrorism of foreign origin continues to be a major concern in regard to the safety of Canadians at home and abroad," says the Oct. 10, 2003, report, titled "Threats to Canada's National Security." "Canada is viewed by some terrorist groups as a place to try to seek refuge, raise funds, procure materials and/or conduct other support activities. ... Virtually all of the most notorious international terrorist organizations are known to maintain a network presence in Canada."

The report follows on the heels of the October 2003 US Library of Congress report Nations Hospitable To Organized Crime And Terrorism (PDF format) which lists Canada as a nation hospitable to terrorists.

According to a 2001 report by the U.S. Department of State, “Overall anti-terrorism cooperation with Canada is excellent, and stands as a model of how the United States and other nations can work together on terrorism issues.”580 Canada has assisted and cooperated with the United States on all fronts of the current war against terrorism. It has, for example, frozen the assets of suspected terrorists and is working closely with the United States to improve security along their common borders. Canadian and U.S. customs and immigration agencies, police forces, and intelligence agencies have a long history of cooperation on border security. This coordination has been strengthened in recent years through formal arrangements such as the U.S.-Canadian Bilateral Consultative Group on Counterterrorism Cooperation (BCG) and the Smart Border Action Plan.581

According to numerous intelligence and law enforcement reports, however, terrorists and international organized crime groups increasingly are using Canada as an operational base and transit country en route to the United States. A generous social-welfare system, lax immigration laws, infrequent prosecutions, light sentencing, and long borders and coastlines offer many points and methods of entry that facilitate movement to and from various countries, particularly to the United States. These factors combine to make Canada a favored destination for terrorists and international organized crime groups.

The report dwells at length on how Canadian immigration policy plays such a major role in making Canada a hospitable environment for terrorist operations.

Third, particular systemic and institutional characteristics make Canada hospitable to international terrorists and criminals. David Griffin, Executive Officer of the Canadian Police Association, explained:

Our proximity to the United States of America makes Canada extremely vulnerable, however it is our lax immigration policy, open borders, weak laws, archaic justice system, an even weaker corrections system and under enforcement that make us extremely attractive to the sophisticated criminal.584

In a 1999 Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) report entitled “Exploitation of Canada’s Immigration System: An Overview of Security Intelligence Concerns,” CSIS Director Ward Elcock is quoted as saying that “in most cases, [terrorists] appear to use Canadian residence as a safe haven, a means to raise funds, to plan or support overseas activities or as a way to obtain Canadian travel documents which make global travel easier.” According to the report, more than 50 terrorist groups are believed to be operating in Canada, including the Algerian Armed Islamic Group, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the Tamil Tigers, Sikh extremists, the Kurdistan Workers Party, Hizballah, and extremist Irish groups.585 According to a 1999 report by Canada’s Special Senate Committee on Security and Intelligence,

Illegal migration into Canada—primarily through the refugee determination system— persists as a concern from two perspectives. First, it is a means by which terrorists may circumvent Canada’s vetting process abroad and enter in search of a temporary or permanent haven. Once in Canada, they may conduct fundraising or other activities or, in a very few cases, organize acts of violence in Canada or against other countries. Second, large volumes of illegal migrants provide the stream in which a few terrorists can ultimately gain entry to the United States by circumventing Canadian and United States border controls.586

Canada has arguably the most generous asylum system of any country in the world. Aliens have a substantially higher chance of gaining asylum in Canada than in the United States. In 1999, Canada granted asylum to 54 percent of applicants, compared with 35 percent in the United States. This condition, combined with easy entry into the United States from Canada, explains why Canada is a primary transition point for smuggled aliens.587

Perhaps until recently, there has also not been widespread concern that Canada could be the victim of a terrorist attack. Sensitivity to civil liberties combined with this low threat perception has made both the adoption and the enforcement of tougher immigration laws and strong counter terrorism measures more difficult. The fact that the 2002 bill designed to make Canada’s immigration laws less favorable to terrorists and international criminals is entitled the “Immigration and Refugee Protection Act” serves as an indication of the prevailing concern for or priority placed upon civil liberties in Canada.

Crimes committed in Canada are not considered relevant to asylum requests unless they would bring more than ten years of imprisonment. 588 This provision means that most of the criminal means by which terrorists raise funds—such as fraud, theft, and counterfeiting—would not disqualify them for asylum, even if they are found guilty. The same can be said for a portion of the illegal activities engaged in by international organized criminal groups.

Upon arriving at a Canadian port of entry, an individual claiming refugee status normally is released, with no provision for monitoring, rather than being detained pending investigation, as is the practice in Great Britain and the United States.589 As their claim is under consideration, such claimants can receive work permits, welfare payments, and housing and health care from the government.590 Deportation orders seldom are carried out for those whose refugee claims are denied.591

As of April 2003, Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board had a backlog of 53,000 asylum cases. A 2003 report by Canada’s Auditor-General said Canada has lost track of 36,000 people who have been ordered to leave the country over the past six years. The report also notes

I hope it does not take a terrorist attack on the United States launched from Canada to bring enough pressure to bear to fix the problems with lax Canadian immigration policies that make it so easy for Islamic terrorists to find their way to Canada. But my guess is that, yes, it will take an attack traceable at least in part to Canada to get the Canadian government to make a big change in their immigration policies. But even then Canada may not really attack the problem if the US government response to date is any indication of what we can expect from the Canadian government. Given the unwillingness of the US government to make large immigration enforcement changes to reduce the threat of terrorism this inadequate Canadian response to the terrorist threat should not be too surprising.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 March 04 02:29 AM  Terrorists Western Response

Latvian Boy said at March 29, 2004 7:31 AM:

That sucks...

Andrew said at April 1, 2004 5:47 PM:

Our immigration system is embarrassing, and a cause of increasing paranoia since the Spain attacks - let's hope our gov't starts patching up all the holes that can be used to exploit the system.

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