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Canada Becoming a Haven for Terrorists Due to Lax Immigration and Refugee Policies According to New Study

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Release Date: February 28, 2006
Canada's flawed refugee system and a lack of political will to reform the program has been a major factor in making Canada a prime destination for terrorists, according to a new paper, Canada's Inadequate Response to Terrorism, released today by The Fraser Institute.

While improvements also need to be made to the screening of immigrant applicants and the screening and tracking of visitors, our highly dysfunctional refugee determination system has been the channel most often used by terrorists for gaining entry.

"A survey that we made based on media reports of 25 Islamic terrorists and suspects who entered Canada as adults indicated that 16 claimed refugee status, four were admitted as landed immigrants and the channel of entry for the remaining five was not identified. Making a refugee claim is used by both terrorists and criminals as a means of rendering their removal from the country more difficult," said Martin Collacott, author of the paper and Senior Fellow at the Institute.

The paper looks at the specific shortcomings of current policies and the reasons why the government has not rectified them. These reasons include the lack of resources provided for effective program delivery, as well as the influence of special interest groups who argue that the rights of refugee claimants and others ordered removed from the country should take priority over other considerations.

A further explanation for the reluctance of the federal government to take firm measures against terrorists and their supporters has been concern over the possible loss of political support. A notable example of this is Ottawa's failure to designate the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam as a terrorist group. Related to this is the fact that little action has been taken to stop terrorist fundraising in Canada even though this is now estimated at $180 million a year.

In addition to improving controls over who enters and leaves the country, policies in other areas also need to be changed if Canada is to deal effectively with the prospect of extremist groups increasingly recruiting terrorists from within our ethnic communities.

In particular, current multicultural policy has to be revised so that, while we continue to welcome people of different backgrounds from all over the world, there is a much clearer expectation that newcomers will be committed to Canadian values and be loyal to Canada.

While this applies to people of all ethnic and religious backgrounds, special attention must be given to working with Muslims since their community is the source of the terrorists who pose the greatest danger to our national security. "Canada must give emphasis to building bridges with members of the Muslim community both to ensure they feel fully a part of Canadian society as well as to enlist their full cooperation in identifying extremists in their midst," said Collacott.

The paper also looks at the impact on our trade with the United States and our economy in general if there is another major terrorist attack in North America and we have failed to take reasonable precautions against such an eventuality. This paper argues that the measures we need to take are necessary for our own security and sovereignty, quite apart from helping to ensure that our border with the United States remains open for the movement of goods and people.

Collacott points out that the gap between what the United States is doing to increase security along its borders and the steps Canada is taking will become increasingly apparent in the years to come and, unless the threat from terrorism unexpectedly diminishes, our failure to demonstrate that we are serious about protecting our borders could cost us dearly, particularly in the area of trade.

"As a matter of urgency, the Canadian government should address the various issues of border security identified in this paper. If we wait until the next major terrorist attack in North America before taking action, the costs to Canada could well be devastating," concluded Collacott.

About the Author

Martin Collacott joined the diplomatic service in 1966 and was posted to Saigon, Hong Kong, Beijing, Lagos, and Tokyo. In the latter part of his career he was Canadian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, and Ambassador to Syria, Lebanon, and Cambodia. As Director General for Security Services at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa he coordinated counterterrorism policy and represented Canada at international meetings on this subject, as well as chaired the Economic Summit Counterterrorism Experts Meeting and the Canada-USA Bilateral Consultative Group on Counterterrorism.

Following his retirement from the Department of Foreign Affairs he took part in a number of projects in Asia related to conflict resolution, human rights, and governance. He is currently a Senior Fellow at The Fraser Institute in Vancouver.