Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Past time to get serious about national security

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

In a statement at Toronto's Pearson International Airport on Friday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper confirmed that his government will spend more than $250-million over the next two years to improve passenger and baggage screening at airports, rail terminals, urban transit facilities and ports. "This is how the fight against terrorism will be won,” he said. “Modernizing equipment and procedures, plugging the holes, filling the gaps and thinking one step ahead of the agents of hate and terror."

Harper is right. When, though, is his government going to do something to plug one of the biggest and most dangerous gaps; namely, the tens of thousands of immigrants and refugee applicants from terrorist-exporting countries who enter Canada each year without proper screening?

Jack Hooper, deputy director of operations for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, underlined the seriousness of this problem in testimony before the Senate Committee on Intelligence and National Defence on May 29. First, he pointed out that about 20,000 immigrants have entered Canada from the terrorist-beset Afghanistan-Pakistan region alone since 2001. He then added: “We’re in a position to vet one-tenth of those. That may be inadequate.”

David B. Harris, former chief of strategic planning for CSIS, agrees. In testimony to a subcommittee on immigration of the United States Congress on June 8, he noted that on a per capita basis, Canada takes in twice as many immigrants, and three to four times as many refugees as the United States. He warned: “Canada cannot effectively screen and integrate such numbers, and we’ve seen the proof.”

Indeed, we have. Literally dozens of Muslim terrorists have been unmasked in Canada over the past 10 years.

Given the seriousness of the ongoing terrorist threat, it’s urgently necessary to plug all the gaping holes in our national security. To this end, Harris suggests the Harper government “consider a moratorium on immigration and refugee intake until we get a handle on our policies and process for mitigating related security risks.”

While there is much to be said for this proposal, there is no need for any prolonged moratorium on the intake of all immigrants and refugees. In the interests of national security, the Harper government should focus instead on the primary threat posed by adult males among Muslims, Tamils and other nationalities and groups linked to terrorism.

The great majority of Muslims and Tamils are not terrorists, but that’s not the issue. The Harper government should urgently resolve that no person who might conceivably be sympathetic to terrorism can enter and remain in Canada without a full security screening by CSIS.

In addition, Immigration Minister Monte Solberg should undertake to bar even temporary entry into Canada by hatemongers like the British Shaykh Riyadh ul Haq. In an harangue before a rally of Muslims in Leicester, England, he alleged that “the rabbis of Israel have made their position clear for all the world to see: They regard the lives of Palestinians – Muslims and Christians alike – as less valuable than those of Jews, and thus expendable.”

Ul Haq is scheduled to serve as a keynote speaker at two major impending guidance conferences for Muslim youths in Montreal and Toronto. These are not fringe events. The roster of featured speakers also includes such prominent Canadian Muslims as Ahmad Shehab, a candidate for mayor of Toronto in 2003, and Dr. Munir El-Kassem, the Muslim chaplain at the University of Western Ontario.

Responsible leaders of the Muslim community in Canada should make sure that Jew-baiting bigots like Ul Haq are not invited to address mainstream Muslim conferences. Failing that, it’s up to the government of Canada to prevent these hatemongers from getting into the country.

In fact, the Canadian Coalition for Democracies has asked the Harper government to bar entry to Ul Haq, in particular. But Solberg has rejected the proposal on the ground: “If a visitor to Canada publicly incites hatred while here, they can be arrested and prosecuted under our Criminal Code."

That policy is preposterous. It gives Muslim extremists free reign to visit and incite their followers in Canada so long as they refrain from spewing their hatred in public.

When oh when will the Harper Conservatives and the opposition parties in Parliament finally get serious about safeguarding Canada from Islamist terrorism?

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