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Canada becoming haven for would be terrorists while politicians look the other way in search of votes

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Release Date: May 21, 2008

VANCOUVER, BC- Canada's immigration and refugee policies are beset with major problems requiring an overhaul but any changes should be made with limited input from politicians, concludes a new book released today by independent research organization the Fraser Institute.

"Canada's immigration and refugee system is dysfunctional and in drastic need of a thorough review. When you take into account the political lobbying from minority cultural organizations and special interest groups such as immigration lawyers, there is little interest from our mainstream political parties to fix things," said Martin Collacott, a former Canadian diplomat and co-editor of the book, Immigration Policy and the Terrorist Threat in Canada and the United States.

The book is a compilation of work from academics and immigration experts who presented papers at the Fraser Institute's 2007 conference on immigration. A follow-up conference is scheduled for Montreal June 4-5. The book provides a scathing look at the many faults of Canada's current immigration and refugee polices. It lays much of the blame for the current shortcomings at the feet of all major political parties - Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, and Bloc Quebecois - and provides many telling examples of political kowtowing to the special interest immigration lobby.

"Any attempts at reform are impeded by an absence of political debate for fear of offending any particular ethnic group, a scenario we've seen played out throughout the Bouchard-Taylor Commission hearings on reasonable accommodation in Quebec," Collacott said. "At the same time, immigration lawyers and settlement groups are well-funded, often with public money, and work tirelessly to ensure political parties live up to their pro-immigration rhetoric."

The book chronicles a list of Canadian immigration policy and security failures:

• The Liberal government of Paul Martin refused to consider banning the Tamil Tigers, one of the world's most murderous terrorist organizations, because it was trying to woo support from the fast-growing Tamil community, even though both the United Kingdom and the United States had already banned the group.

• In the spring of 2007, a number of federal and provincial politicians attended a parade in Surrey, BC where Talwinder Singh Parmar, the suspected mastermind of the Air India bombing, was honoured and glorified as a martyr to the cause of Sikh separatism.

• Opposition parties in the current Parliament have pressed for changes to Canada's refugee policies that would provide additional avenues of appeal to rejected refugee claimants, even though failed claimants are already able to use the existing laws to delay removal and remain in Canada for years and even decades in some cases.

The book also notes that Canada's high levels of immigration with increasing concentration among particular groups has resulted in a growing number of ethnic enclaves where new immigrants have limited need to integrate and sometimes bring age-old ethnic and religious conflicts with them. This in turn makes their members more prone to recruitment by extremist groups. 

For example, following the arrest of 18 Muslims in Ontario suspected of plotting to carry out mass killings in the Toronto area, a poll of Canadian Muslims found that 12 per cent - the equivalent of almost 100,000 Muslim-Canadians - believed the plot was justified. The RCMP also later revealed they had quietly broken up at least a dozen similar terrorist cells prior to these high-profile arrests.

 "The notion that minority groups are immune from criticism makes it all but impossible to control unwanted immigration," Collacott said.

Canada's failure to address its porous immigration and refugee system will likely result in additional US security measures at the border and greater restrictions on Canada-US trade and travel, concludes Alexander Moens, a Simon Fraser University professor, expert in Canada-US relations, and co-editor of the book.

"Canada's failure to take seriously the security risks posed by its lax refugee system undermines American confidence in our ability to control our borders," Moens said.

"This leaves the US no option but to tighten its security efforts which will, in turn, further restrict trade and travel and damage the ability of many Canadians to earn a living. Canada is a trading nation, and if our largest trading partner feels it can no longer trust us, that will have economic repercussions."

Both Moens and Collacott conclude that Canada's only recourse is fundamental change to current immigration and refugee policies that would involve a re-evaluation of who should be admitted to Canada and on what basis.

"There's a lack of resources available to adequately screen would-be immigrants and refugees and a lack of clarity on who should be admitted. Until that problem is addressed, Canada will continue to be seen as easy pickings where terrorists can gain access at will," Moens said.