Toronto, ON - Canadian governments of all stripes have
failed to comprehend the link between immigration policy and
security, attendees at The Fraser Institute's first conference
on immigration, border controls and terrorism heard Thursday in
"Our political leaders just don't buy into it. That's why
Canadians are so ambivalent about border security. Our
political leaders don't take it seriously," said James Bissett,
former executive director of the Canadian Immigration Service
and a former Canadian ambassador in Europe and the
Speaking as part of a panel discussing security concerns in
immigration and refugee policies, Bissett said all of Canada's
major political parties have come to view immigration purely as
a numbers game where the aim is to increase the number of
immigrants because they are potential voters.
"With the advent and institutionalization of
multiculturalism in the 1970s, it quickly became evident to
politicians that they could use taxpayers' money to bribe the
immigrant communities for votes by sponsoring various festivals
and immigrant cultural organizations," he said.
"This revolutionized Canadian politics because now Canadian
political leaders felt they could maneuver and get block voting
from the ethnic communities."
The result, he added, is that most immigrants now coming to
Canada do so within the family class and very few have the
skills the country needs, regardless of the economic
Mark Krikorian, executive director of Washington DC's Centre
for Immigration Studies, told the conference that current
levels of mass immigration are incompatible with the goals and
characteristics of modern society.
He suggested that due to modern technology, the idea of a
"home front" during a war is no longer just a metaphor, and
it's very likely many countries would try to exploit the US's
huge immigrant population in the event of a conflict.
"That's the brass ring for terrorists - mass civilian
casualties in the homeland of the enemy."
Despite the ramped-up security measures implemented by the
US in the wake of 9/11, the American government does not have
the resources to check and screen all immigrants.
Krikorian said there's a backlog of 100,000 would-be
immigrants waiting for fingerprint checks; a backlog of 300,000
waiting for name checks; and the US government estimates that
20 - 30 per cent of all immigrant applications are
Bissett also hit out at Canada's failure to properly screen
new immigrants, particularly those claiming asylum. Only 10 per
cent of all immigrants are screened for security issues and
virtually no one claiming asylum is screened for health,
security or criminality, he said, adding that while refugees
are determined by a United Nations definition, anyone who sets
foot on Canadian soil can claim to be a refugee simply by
suggesting they fear persecution in their home land.
"Very few people claiming refugee status are ever detained.
Since 9/11, they have been photographed and fingerprinted. But
then they're released and there's no tracking system. We often
don't know who they are or where they go."
As an example, he referred to the case of convicted
terrorist Ahmad Ressam, who before being caught in a plot to
blow up Los Angeles International Airport, was a failed refugee
claimant living in Montreal who was able to travel to
Afghanistan to receive training at a terrorist camp on how to
build a bomb.
He estimated there's anywhere from 50,000 to 60,000 people
with failed refugee claims still living in Canada. These people
have been ordered to leave but the government has taken no
action because it has no idea where they are.
"We can't keep anybody out and we can't kick out the bad
guys," he said.