Canada terrorist-friendly: US Study
Date: Monday, February 16 2004
Topic: Canadian Politics
Canada's immigration laws and social programs have helped make the country a hotbed for terrorists and organized criminals, a recently released report by the U.S. Library of Congress claims.
Rights enshrined in Canada's Constitution, such as protection against unreasonable search and seizure, and the country's generous social-welfare system have made it "a favoured destination for terrorists and international organized crime groups," says the report, which is titled Nations Hospitable to Organized Crime and Terrorism.
Canada's "well-deserved reputation as a protector of human rights, including the rights of non-citizens who are entering or leaving the country," has helped promote "the presence of criminal and terrorist groups and individuals," the 234-page report says.
But the report, which was completed in October and issued this month by the congressional library's federal research division under an arrangement with the Central Intelligence, Crime and Narcotics Centre, has been denounced by Canadian immigration and crime experts as misguided, shoddy and biased.
The report helps "fuel xenophobia and fuel racism," says a Canadian refugee expert.
"It never ceases to amaze me at how quickly American lawmakers will point their fingers at Canada," said Sharryn Aiken, a Queen's University law professor and past president of the Canadian Council for Refugees. "These are serious issues, but let's not blame the immigration program."
Citing government studies, intelligence reports, newspaper stories, interviews and academic articles, the report's authors highlight contributing factors, such as the ease with which individuals claiming refugee status are released without supervision and illegal aliens' chances of gaining asylum in Canada.
But Margaret Beare, director of the Nathanson Centre for the Study of Organized Crime and Corruption at York University, said there is no evidence to suggest newcomers to Canada are more prone to crime. Refugees and illegal immigrants are the least likely to engage in criminal activity because they don't want to risk deportation, she said.
"The year before last the RCMP told the United Nations our No. 1 problem is bikers," said Beare, referring to a 2002 report. There is only one reference to domestic motorcycle gangs in the U.S. report, but two pages are devoted to such ethnic groups as British Columbia's Chinese Big Circle Boys and the Lotus group, as well as organized criminals from Eastern Europe.
Beare also called the research behind the report "infuriating," saying that speeches given by CSIS director Ward Elcock in 1999 don't offer an accurate picture of Canada today. "They're quoting people who have an agenda," she said.
Janet Dench of the Canadian Council for Refugees said the report is more "chilling" because of Prime Minister Paul Martin's vow to improve U.S.-Canada relations. "The report suggest the less human rights people have, the more security they enjoy."
An aide to Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan said Canada has areas it needs to work on to fight terrorism, but so does every country. "The issues that we have to deal with are pretty common ones globally," said Alex Swann.
Source: GREG McARTHUR | CanWest News Service