The Mackenzie Institute
PO Box 338, Adelaide Station Toronto, Ontario M5C-2J4
Tel: 905-771-3835 E-mail: [email protected]
The Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims
- Remarks by John C. Thompson, Director of the Institute
26 January, 2000
In 1998, following his testimony to a Canadian Senate inquiry into terrorism and public safety, the Director General of the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) alleged that representatives of some 60 terrorist organizations were present in Canada.
Without providing an exhaustive survey of terrorism within Canada, recent events have graphically demonstrated that Islamic Fundamentalists are present. The Air India bombing of 1985 killed 329 people (most of whom were Canadian citizens) and remains the most lethal aircraft bombing to date. The Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka have a considerable fundraising apparatus established in Canada, while members and supporters of the Kurdish PKK are also present. Over the years, Iranian exiles, radical Black Muslims, the Provisional Wing of the IRA (and their Protestant counterparts), and various Palestinian groups have also surfaced in Canada.
Nor are terrorists the only security threats in Canada. Christopher Andrew's The Mitrokhin Archives, among its many other revelations, details a number of attempts by the Soviet Union to place illegals (agents who operate without a bona fide "legal" cover) into the United States by running them through Canada. This activity began in the 1950s - with some severe interruptions from the RCMP's Security Service - and continued well into the 1970s. While modern espionage tends to be aimed at the acquisition of technology (countering this is a major activity for CSIS), other nations may decide to follow the old Soviet strategy.
If there is significant representation from terrorist organizations in Canada, the same is true for organized crime. To cite one example, participants in the 1990-93 Black Market in cigarettes in Canada included the traditional North American Mafia; Aboriginal organized crime, Bikers, Montreal's Franco-Irish underworld and Lebanese, Sikh, Vietnamese, Jamaican, Chinese and Russian gangs. A senior police officer in Cornwall Ontario (the city closest to the main entry point for contraband) described his town to the author as a "Klondike for Organized Crime."
A Canadian police report was cited in the prosecution of a Vermont gun dealer who had diverted approximately 1,000 handguns into the black market. It listed details of 102 weapons that had been recovered in Canada. Canadian Suspects associated with these weapons included members of Russian Mafiya, Armenian thieves, Mohawk Warriors, the Franco-Irish underworld, Jamaican Posses, Colombians, Vietnamese gangsters, sundry street gangs, Bikers and at least two Mafia families.
In sum, organized crime in Canada is as cosmopolitan as the rest of Canadian society. However, traditional criminal organizations have been joined by numerous new groups.
A characteristic of terrorists and other insurgent groups in the 1990s is that most have had to become self-supporting, usually by participating in organized crime. Some groups, such as the Tamil Tigers or FARC in Colombia, have perfectly fused both activities into a single organization. Most of the terrorist groups that are present in Canada, are there to make money and garner support. Few international groups have ever directed violence against Canada itself. As an example, the Tamil Tigers in Canada engage in fraud, extortion (within the Tamil expatriate community), heroin trafficking and prostitution to fund their war effort in Sri Lanka. A handsome share of the profits of the cocaine market in Canada must be assumed to be in FARC's pockets.
The effects of this hybrid relationship between support for insurgency and organized crime cannot be understated. It is not a new phenomenon, but was largely absent in the Cold War Era. However, those groups that evolve into this pattern have the potential to become extremely powerful. The Tamil Tigers own their own merchant ships and FARC now controls some 40% of Colombia. Historical examples of insurgents who drifted into organized crime include the Mafia and the Chinese Triads - both of which may have more influence than is generally understood.
Most modern organized criminal societies and insurgent support networks are ethnic in character. Criminal societies as diverse as the Mafiya, the Posses and Triads tend to have a core membership based on common experience from a narrow ethnic base. The same is also true of Biker gangs who tend to have a strong white supremacist element. Insurgents around the world tend to belong to a sub-national minority or a particular religious faction. In a cosmopolitan society, this characteristic can add considerable complications for law enforcement agencies - this is certainly true in Canada.
Support for insurgency and organized crime within immigrant communities is an old story. One of the author's great uncles was a member of an Irish gang in New York City that specialized in theft, intimidation and fixing sporting matches in the early 1900s. Typically, his parents had moved into an Irish ghetto and his father died young because of an industrial accident. The combination of societal dislocation, poverty, unfamiliarity with the new society and an absent parent made him a prime candidate for criminal activity. On the other hand, the author's grandfather was a law-abiding and hard-working man for all of his long life. Social conditions make participation in criminal activity more likely, but not inevitable.
Immigration and Canada
Like the United States, Canada is a society of immigrants. Before the Second World War, Canada largely drew from the same sources as the United States -- with the significant exception of involuntary immigration from Africa. There were near identical restrictions on Asian immigration in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, and little immigration from outside of Europe. As with the United States, immigration rates were especially high in the decade before the First World War. For example, in 1910-1913, Canada averaged 323,800 new arrivals each year - a rate that has not been repeated since.
After the Second World War, annual immigration varied between 80,000 and 200,000. Sources for new arrivals slowly diversified, a trend that accelerated in 1967 when the Canadian government determined that race, colour, religion or sex could no longer be used to determine admissibility. Shortly afterwards, the Immigration Act was changed to reflect three basic goals:
- To foster the development of a strong national economy in all regions;
- To facilitate the reunion of Canadian residents with family members from abroad;
- To uphold Canada's humanitarian tradition.
The Act states that the immigration program should protect the health and safety of all Canadians, and prevent the entry of criminals, spies, terrorists and subversives. However, sorting out the occasional bad apple in all the new barrels is not easy at the best of times. A Supreme Court of Canada interpretation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (written by Justice Bertha Wilson in 1985) presented a major handicap to enforcing this part of the Act. The interpretation of the Charter held that all non-Citizens were fully entitled to all the same legal protections as citizens from the very moment they set foot in the country.
For some 69 of the last 100 years, Canada has been governed by the Liberal Party. The Liberals, especially since the Second World War, have become adept at garnering the votes of new Canadians (most of whom were admitted into the country and granted citizenship under Liberal government). In 1972, the Liberals also introduced a new policy to support multiculturalism; and this has generally strengthened their support among new Canadians.
The current Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Elinor Caplan, recently declared that she hoped to boost immigration to more than 300,000 a year (or 1% of Canada's population). To accomplish this, decision making may be decentralized, and it will be easier for foreign students, temporary workers and others to get permanent status without having to return to their home countries to apply. Again, while the vast majority of would-be immigrants will be law-abiding and useful citizens, Canada's record for detecting and deporting the bad apples among them is less than good.
Moreover, Canada has become perhaps the most cosmopolitan nation in the world, and most citizens generally take pride in this accomplishment. But this transition - in combination with Post War sensibilities about racial discussions of any kind - mitigates against candid discussion of problems within particular communities. For example, members of the Jamaican Posses were very active in Toronto in the early 1990s. Typically, most of the victims of their gunplay and home invasions were Canadians of Caribbean origin. Of the three Toronto daily newspapers at the time, only one frequently referred to the Posses by name. The largest circulation English language daily (one of pronounced Liberal sympathy) rarely even described the perpetrators of much of this violence.
Canada is also extremely accommodating to refugee claimants. Pending a hearing to allow landed immigrant status, a refugee will be awarded a series of welfare benefits. Some refugees resent this - an Afghan friend of the author disliked receiving what he regarded as charity. As he was not allowed to gain employment until he had immigrant status, he used the interval to attend government funded language training. The majority of refugees do need this period of support while they adjust to life in Canada.
Some refugee claimants arrive with a full knowledge of Canada's welfare system - general welfare, family benefits, subsidized housing and an allowance to purchase furniture and household effects. Social workers in the Etobicoke area of Toronto were sometimes startled to find that many Somali refugees had precise knowledge of all their entitlements. Some made multiple claims under different names. Perhaps just as disturbing to police in British Colombia are teenage boys from Central American nations who also land with a detailed knowledge of expected benefits, and a clear idea of their legal protections under the Young Offenders Act. Some have been picked up as drug dealers within two days of landing in Canada.
Some refugee communities have used the Canadian benefits system to a wider advantage. Somali warlord Mohammed Farah Aideed was largely funded by Canadian welfare benefits and drug trafficking. Clan members who arrived in Canada forwarded a tithe of their income to the Warlord. His second wife, Khagida Gurhan, and four of his children were living on welfare at the time in London, Ontario. Gurhan also frequently traveled back to Africa to accompany Aideed as he tried to rally support in other African nations.
Partisans of Somali clan warlords are not the only arrivals to abuse Canadian hospitality towards refugees. The Tamil Tigers selected Canada as the best place to transfer some of the supporters (and fund-raisers) as early as 1985. Several boatloads of Tamils (who reached Canada via India, the USSR, East Germany and West Germany) landed off the Canadian coast to claim refugee status.
It is ironic, given the frequent abuse of Canada's refugee system, that some real political refugees have difficulty getting the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) to accept their claims. One case the author was involved in as a special witness concerned an Iraqi army deserter who was threatened with deportation to Baghdad on the eve of the 1991 Gulf War. Another case involved a Peruvian electrical engineer that was targeted by both the Army's counter-insurgency troops and by the Maoist guerrillas in the country.
Despite the problems presented by a tiny minority of new arrivals, Canada continues to draw in large numbers of immigrants and refugees.
Beyond the official figures, there are an unknown number of illegal aliens. Many of these entered on expired visitor or student visas. Others have been smuggled into the country, often with false documentation. Not all immigrants or refugee claimants take citizenship either. On average during the 1990s, only some 155,560 new citizens were sworn in every year. One might argue that Canada has rapidly generated a "citizenship deficit". This speaks volumes about Justice Wilson's decision and the worth of citizenship.
Although more new Canadians appear in the birth ward than at the nation's airports, immigration is a major component of population growth. Without immigration, the rate of natural increase would be very slight indeed . Between 1991 and 1998, Canada's population grew from 28,031,000 people to approximately 30,300,000.
Among other trends and examples:
- Over 50% of new arrivals take up residence in Southern Ontario - mostly around the Toronto area. Vancouver and Montreal form two lesser areas of residence. While new arrivals to North America have always tended to gather in transitional communities, this extreme concentration allows for more of a 'critical mass' of active or potential security risks to form in a single area. As insurgent or criminal organizations first prey on their own ethnic community, this degree of concentration can accelerate their growth.
- By 1996, some 219,425 Canadian citizens and residents were from Middle Eastern nations that have manifested Islamic Fundamentalist violence. This is up from 178,205 in 1991. The vast majority of these new Canadians are interested in building a new life for themselves and their families, but not all are harmless. The escape route for the World Trade Centre bombers lay through southern Ontario, where airline tickets and new identification were waiting for them.
- The population of Tamil residents (almost all from Sri Lanka) grew from 31,000 to 67,000 in 1991-96. This number does not include illegal aliens, and the Tamil Tigers have a history of people smuggling. Most Tamils residing in Canada are often expected to contribute a monthly "War-Tax" to the Tigers
- While not all Punjabi speakers are Sikhs (and a majority of Sikhs are not militant supporters of the homeland independence movement); there were over 200,000 Punjabi speakers in Canada as of 1996. Babbar Khalsa members have engaged in violence to suppress contrary opinions in the Sikh community and to control the funds from temples. Members who had gained Canadian citizenship also returned to the Punjab to support the insurgency.
Canada's law enforcement community has also had cope with supporters of the IRA and its Protestant counterparts; Armenian terrorists, Somali clans, militant Croats and Serbs. There is some internal terrorism in Canada coming out of a minuscule radical right and an equally irritating radical left (this last includes members of the Animal Liberation Front and "Ecotagers"). The radical right is very badly organized, and groups like ALF have so far managed to avoid killing anyone.
What is more irritating to Canadians is the catholic nature of organized crime. Almost every criminal sub-society in the world has some presence in the country. As organized crime continues to make connections with insurgents and political militants, this problem may become more significant in the future.
Shrinking Security Capacities
It would be wrong to demean the professionalism or skill of most members of Canada's police and security services . The same is true for the officers at Canada's Customs and Immigration desks. Many of them are far better people than Canada deserves.
However, it is difficult to maintain professionalism when efforts go unappreciated. Immigration officers, for instance, are too aware of their limitations. Police officers throughout Canada often lack the resources to battle organized crime or insurgent's fundraising activities. It frequently happens that significant intelligence is acquired on criminals or potential terrorists, but there is no money for prosecutions. This leaves many officers in the frustrating situation where they know what is going on, but are unable to act upon it.
One cardinal effect of this frustration is a steady drain in experienced personnel who frequently take advantage of their pensions or seek private employment. The personnel who tend to remain under such circumstances are either tremendously motivated or else are those who do not care much. The latter are often much more common. Newcomers then enter an organization that is less capable than it was earlier.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police operate as a National Police force, as police for federal property and on contract to most provinces as a provincial force. According to the Canadian journalist Paul Palango in his 1998 book The Last Guardians - the Crisis in the RCMP, the force has increasingly been expected to run along business lines. In a process that paralleled much of the decline in the Canadian military, senior RCMP officers became increasingly drawn into the civil service culture instead of remaining as a quasi-independent service under the Solicitor General of Canada.
The process described by Palango was recently echoed by Robert Head, a former assistant commissioner and 30-year veteran of the RCMP, in his November 1999 report The Politicization of the RCMP. Since the Conservative government of Brian Mulroney in the 1980s, the RCMP has been increasingly expected to work on "community policing" and "client relationships". Mounties have also been expected to volunteer for peacekeeping missions in Cambodia, Haiti, Africa and the Balkans - this during a time in which their budget has been shrinking. Both critics also claim that heavy political interference exists within the Force, particularly on cases involving commercial or "White Collar" crime.
In the autumn of 1998, a fundamentalist cult leader in northern Alberta, was (and remains) the leading suspect in a series of hundreds of incidents of vandalism aimed at nearby logging and gas activities. The local community, feeling threatened by a series of bombs on sour gas pipe-lines and rifle shots fired at pumping stations, was on the verge of vigilante action. The local detachment (for an area that had some 50,000 residents spread over 6,500 square kilometres) consisted of eight officers.
The detachment, albeit led by an extremely capable and much respected Sergeant, was barely able to keep pace with the investigation due to their normal heavy workload. Requests for an additional three officers had bogged down in months of petty wrangling between Ottawa and the provincial capital of Edmonton over funding and logistics. It is also revealing that the detachment commander had been, before his posting to a remote rural corner of Alberta, a leading expert in "Proceeds of Crime" - following the money trail behind white collar and organized crime.
RCMP officers have complained to the author that political will is absent for many major investigations. One investigator went so far as to say in 1995 that if the potential value of seized assets might not exceed the costs of an investigation, it might not be undertaken. In one instance in 1999, a major investigation into a nation-wide narcotic smuggling network (centred in British Colombia) was halted by Ottawa for a lack of funds. The investigation only resumed when the Ontario Provincial Government volunteered some $ 6 Million in new funding.
Throughout the 1990s, the Federal government has been parsimonious. Despite a tax-rate that exceeds that of the United States, the federal debt (to say nothing of those accumulated by provincial and municipal governments) was around $580 Billion at the end of the 1997-98 fiscal year. Funding for most Ministries and agencies has generally diminished from budget to budget. In 1993/94, the RCMP's actual spending was $1,241.6 million. Planned spending for 2000/01 is $1,200.6.
The RCMP, already saddled with many obligations, cut deeply into its ability to investigate organized crime, white-collar crime and related activities. For a force facing hard choices, the decision makes sense. These investigations are complex, expensive, and often result in major legal battles once they reach court.
Another problem for the RCMP comes with the Federal Government's gun control bill. Note that as of March 1999, Canada has spent $216 million on a program to register all shotguns and rifles in the country. Another $95 million is apparently budgeted for FY99/00. (According to Reform Party MP Garry Breitkruz, repeated attempts to get exact figures have been obstructed.) Moreover, the equivalent of some 391 RCMP officers has been diverted from other duties to help manage what is turning out to be an unmanageable program.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service, like the RCMP, belongs to the Solicitor General of Canada. It is an intelligence gathering organization primarily concerned with counter-espionage, counter-terrorism, and similar issues. The service is also expected to conduct all security screening for the federal government. Its officers are not police officers, do not carry arms and may not make their own arrests. However, its officers have greater powers of investigation than do those of the RCMP.
CSIS was formed in the early 1980s and by 1990 had something like 2,700 full-time equivalent personnel working for it. Currently, it has some 2,050 personnel -- including transfers from the Department of National Defence who were brought in to help cope with a severe backlog in security screening. Funding has dropped. The annual budget for CSIS was $244 million in 1993-94, and is $168 million for the current fiscal year. Details of CSIS activities are rarely forthcoming and the organization's annual reports are a marvel of brevity. Secrecy is invoked for most of its operations.
Morale is reported to be low in CSIS. Most of the members that the author knows have left for other employment in recent years. The quality of the group's reports also seems to have fallen off. When first created, CSIS was staffed with many veteran RCMP officers from the Security Service. These were seasoned investigators with long experience in recruiting and running informers and confidential sources. Recruitment since 1985 has tended to focus in more of an academic direction, to the detriment of street experience.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service frequently finds itself short of members with the language and cultural skills to operate in some communities. One of the Agency's big successes in the early 1990s was in the recruitment of an agent provocateur within Canada's White Supremacist community. Since then, according to some members of the Agency, there have been repeated attempts to emulate this success with other groups. However, with less experience and a smaller budget, this has been difficult to arrange without sometimes attempting to coerce refugees with questionable claims.
Perhaps the worst example of the behavior of its current members concerns an analyst who placed a highly classified projection on major narcotics-related investigations in her briefcase. However, while attending a basketball game in the autumn of 1999, her car was burgled and the briefcase was stolen. Instead of immediately reporting the theft, she decided to wait until her return from vacation. The missing documents were never recovered. Moreover, instead acting instantly when informed of the threat, CSIS delayed its reaction for some days. While many CSIS officers do have a much more professional attitude, this episode speaks volumes about the current state of the organization.
Customs and Immigration Officers have endured considerable reorganization in the last decade. Immigration officers now come under the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration (after splitting off some functions to Human Resources). Customs officers now work for Revenue Canada. Moreover, the fiscal austerity programs have also had an effect. During the reorganizations under the Liberal government in their 1993-97 term, some important capabilities were discarded.
Immigration used to have an orthodox but highly gifted set of investigators known, informally, as the Trackers. This group specialized in hunting down criminals who had evaded deportation, and potentially dangerous illegal aliens. One of their signal accomplishments was in finding a prominent American White Supremacist within nine hours of entering Canada, and subsequently ejecting him. The Trackers were entirely disbanded within days of the 1993 appointment of Sergio Marchi as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. (As the minister, Marchi favoured the appointment of refugee claimant advocates and immigration lawyers to the Immigration and Refugee Board - with predictable results.)
The Trackers must be missed. The January 1999 release of the Canadian Senate report on terrorism indicated that some 5,272 deportation orders could not be executed as the subjects for them could not be located by the Federal government.
Canada does deport hundreds of people every year (some of whom have been repeatedly expelled). However, even a half-hearted attempt at evasion can often succeed, provided the subject of the deportation order avoids arrest on separate criminal charges. Almost all of those who are deported are people who have been convicted (often repeatedly) for violent criminal offences. Many cases are attended by lengthy legal battles, with considerable cost to the public purse in legal aid.
Another front-line organization that was disbanded in recent years was the Ports Police. Major ports can be a nightmare of overlapping jurisdictions and regulations, but the Federal Ports Police were designed to work in this environment. They also had extensive experience in coping with smuggling - especially in catching shipments of narcotics and illegal aliens. This experience is no longer available to the law enforcement community.
Hiring policies for both Customs and Immigration now appear to place the appearance of diversity over experience and education. Many new Canadians, often with questionable communications skills in either official language, now staff front-line desks. Whatever the merits in equal opportunity policies, this must represent an aggregate loss in capability.
Morale is low for other reasons. After some years of pleading for extra resources, especially in major smuggling zones around Cornwall and Wallaceburg Ontario, Customs officers have finally received body-armour. These used sets from Canadian and American police forces that adopted better protective gear. Canada does not arm its Customs officers lest visitors receive the wrong impression about the country. What visitors might think about the bullet scars on the Customs buildings at Walpole Island and near Akwesasne is not recorded.
The Canadian Armed Forces have some role in internal security. Like the American NSA, the Canadian Signals Establishment (CSE) plays a role in communications security and the development of electronic intelligence. The organization is shrouded in secrecy and little is known about its actual budget, however, there have been rumours of low morale and major security breaches in recent months. There have been intimations of budget cuts, as the CSE recently floated a trial balloon over the idea of also providing services to major corporations. The balloon, predictably, was quickly shot down.
Canadian military assets, such as helicopters, logistics support, and extra manpower have been available to support the RCMP and other police forces in the past. However, the budgetary axe has fallen hardest and most frequently on the Department of National Defence. Morale is low, equipment is outdated, and personnel (especially from combat arms formations) are heavily over-taxed.
One unit that is, apparently, in fighting trim is Joint Task Force II, a body modeled on the British SAS and with many similar functions. While most military units are scrambling for training ammunition, field rations and adequate gear, JTF-II has the resources it requires. However, the force lacks much of the experience in "Black Ops" (counter-terrorism and the like) that attends the SAS. Worse, the troops that it does have are becoming heavily tasked.
Lack of Coordination
Among the many Canadian traits that may require explanation to an American audience are an emphasis on government secrecy and a respect for privacy.
Civil Servants in Canada answer to elected cabinet ministers; who are in turn nominally accountable in parliament and ultimately to the electors. Consequently, any mistake or blunder on the part of a senior federal civil servant may result in major embarrassment for the minister in the House and in public. If accountability can be said to (ideally) flow in one direction, blame invariably flows in the opposite direction. Over the years, the main aim of any civil service ministry has become to avoid embarrassing their minister. This in turn has lead to a widespread penchant for secrecy in government service. As a result, most agencies are reluctant to share information on a regular or timely basis.
Canadians tend to value individual privacy, and expect to be able to keep it. Libel laws in Canada are tougher than they are in the United States, and the Supreme Court has frequently interpreted the law in ways that strengthen this right. In practice, if not necessarily in regulation, it is difficult to acquire court records, individual service records or welfare records in Canada
These traits have had some effect on Canadian security. For example, Canadian police have access to a national criminal data bank known as CPIC. To prevent abuse of CPIC records, for example, when a file is e-mailed or printed, the identity of the officer who requested it is always visible. Access to CPIC is generally restricted to police alone - in Canada. However, many Canadian agencies have bilateral relationships with their American counterparts. American police officers can access CPIC records, just as Canadian police officers can Use American records. American agencies tend to share access to information in a way that Canadians rarely do, with the net effect that - for example - an American customs officer can access CPIC files. As late as 1998, Canadian customs officers were still barred from CPIC access.
Outside of police circles, the routine sharing of information is less than it could be. The CSE, for example, is an extraordinary source of information, but only reports to the Privy Council Office (the small body of elite senior civil servants who support the Cabinet). When intelligence is passed on to other agencies, it has already moved - often slowly - through a set of politicized filters. Delays of this sort often damage intelligence work; the classic failure of intelligence is when the "client" refuses to believe what his officers are reporting. Inserting a political speed bump into the flow degrades the quality of information, adds a time delay, and may well block some material altogether.
The sharing of information inside some Ministries is worse. Citizenship and Immigration is divided into three regions that are very slow to share information with each other. If someone skips a refugee hearing in Quebec and moves into Ontario, it may take weeks (if ever) before Immigration officers in Ontario learn of it. For their part, those who duck their hearings usually will already have a Canadian driver's license - sufficient ID for almost all purposes in North America.
When CSIS was first created out of the RCMP's Security Service, it was intended that the group would work closely with the Mounties. In 15 years of practice, the relationship has not been harmonious -- even through both report to the Solicitor General. This illustrates the natural jurisdictional disputes that occur between agencies under most circumstances, but Canadian groups face the additional handicaps listed above.
However, it must be pointed out that many Canadian agencies work better with their US counterparts than they do with other Canadian bodies. Immigration officers were able to identify a large number of Chinese Triad leaders entering Canada in 1994, apparently with the help of American authorities. It is also possible that the Canadian interception of Chinese boat people off British Colombia in the summer of 1999 was facilitated by US intelligence and surveillance resources.
Ottawa is capable of rapidly creating inter-agency task forces when necessary. Special task forces on specific organized criminal groups have been formed with RCMP, provincial and regional police input, with extra support from other agencies. These tend to have a particular purpose and can be short lived - Ottawa recently announced that it will no longer be involved in one task force on South Asian organized crime.
Another task force was formed to deal with a sudden influx of illegal Chinese aliens in British Columbia in the summer of 1999. These had paid "snake-heads" (people smugglers associated with the Triads), or else had promised indentured service. The military, the RCMP, the Coast Guard and Immigration officers all combined to handle some 400 new arrivals. Most are still in detention, as a majority of those who had been released from custody was rapidly smuggled into the United States by the Triads.
A standing task force appears to have attended the passage of Bill C-68, a gun control bill designed establish a national registry for all rifles and shotguns. The RCMP has been working closely with Canada customs and several other agencies to closely scrutinize merchants, and observe the private passage of firearms (such as those belonging to hunters or recreation societies) into and out of the country.
What Ottawa refuses to do is create standing and permanent measures for inter-agency coordination and cooperation. The timely passage of information to, for example, the Immigration and Refugee Board from CSIS or the RCMP does not occur. Deportation orders do not appear to be instantly posted to the police forces across the country (or even to other Immigration Districts). Canada could do a better job of protecting its citizens.
Official Antipathy Towards Security
For most of its citizens, Canada is a safe country. Violent crime rates tend to be much lower (overall) than those of the United States. While Americans are largely focused on "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness", Canadians tend to expect "peace, order and good government." Whatever historical and environmental causes lie behind this different focus, Canadians believe themselves to be a quiet and orderly people. Up to a point, this is true.
Few Canadians, aside from the few surviving veterans of the World Wars and the few thousand soldiers who have been peacekeeping in the 1990s, have actually confronted evil, and most consequently have difficulty believing it exists. There is a widespread belief that, because Canada is a peaceful country far from trouble spots, that Canadians are always safe.
Many citizens (and leading political figures) believe themselves to be compassionate, reasonable and intelligent. Without ever experiencing a personal confrontation with a dangerous individual, it is then easy to believe that all intelligent people must be likewise reasonable and compassionate. This fallacy is deeply entrenched in the Canadian psyche. It might almost be construed as a political ideology when it comes to diplomacy and defence policy, especially in recent decades.
It is difficult for many individual citizens to accept that malevolence exists. Consequently, when political (or quasi-political) violence occurs in Canada, it is often quickly forgotten - or readily forgiven. The Air India bombing, for all the Canadians it killed, was quickly interpreted as a problem for India, and not really for Canada. The Armenian takeover of the Turkish Embassy in Ottawa in 1985 has almost been entirely forgotten. The last terrorist act deliberately aimed at a Canadian target was in 1985, when an Air Canada office was bombed in Los Angeles by an Armenian. Before that, most Canadians, if asked, might recall the FLQ Crisis of 1970. Otherwise, terrorism is almost entirely removed from the public's horizon.
Ottawa shares the public's view on security issues. Spending on national security is often the first to be reduced. For example, of the NATO nations (excepting Iceland and Luxembourg), Canada's proportional spending on defence has long been the lowest in the Alliance.
Concerns about other problems, while present, receive a soft reaction. The first reaction by the current Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to the 1999 influx of boat people was to say that she was waiting for winter, as the bad weather would stop the influx. After due deliberation, Elinor Caplan traveled to Fujian Province as part of a mission to persuade would-be boat people not to take the trip.
In a modern cosmopolitan society, most citizens feel it is - at least - impolite to discuss issues relating to ethnic identity. The Liberal encouragement of multiculturalism has made political figures even more sensitive to this issue. Organized criminals and members of insurgent support networks are only too ready to exploit this weakness.
When Khagida Gurkhan (the wife of Mohammed Farah Aideed) was criticized by the media for misusing the welfare and refugee system, her first reaction was to label the critics as racists. Toronto's Black Action Defence Committee (a handful of activists who purported to speak for the entire black community), was silent on the issue of violence from the Jamaican Posses, but equally quick to denounce any police interest in the gangs. Strangely enough, BADC leaders attended the funerals of Posse members - but not those of their many innocent black victims. Only one Toronto daily was bold enough to guess at the significance of this relationship. The group had considerable access to members of the city and provincial government for some years.
When Ottawa first attempted to deport Manickavasamagam Suresh, a leader of the Tamil Tigers and one of their key fund raisers in Canada in 1996, the organization mobilized some 25,000 protesters in a series of demonstrations. Pro-Tiger Tamils put a pressure campaign on Toronto area members of parliament (especially on Cabinet ministers) to halt deportation proceedings and secure his release.
Interestingly, a Federal Court judge ruled on January 20, 2000 that Canada does have the right to deport terrorists even if they claim they will be tortured if returned home. Suresh should soon be in Sri Lankan custody and a senior Babbar Khalsa member (Iqbal Singh) was deported to Belize on January 6, 2000. It will have taken Canada six years to deport Iqbal Singh. Proceedings against Suresh took some five years.
Ached Ressam and Mohtar Haouri had both arrived in Canada via France in 1993. Both made refugee claims; and both failed -- this in itself is somewhat unusual, more dubious claims have been accepted. Like Suresh and Singh, both claimed they would be tortured if returned to Algeria (probably true at the time). Both remained at large. Ressam became involved in an automobile theft ring organized by Algerian expatriates, many of whom were known to be sympathizers of the Fundamentalist uprising against the Algerian Junta. This in itself should have been a warning flag. Haouri's suspected involvement in weapons smuggling should have been another warning.
Canadian police were aware of the implications of these activities but were not in a position to take further action. Immigration Canada and various police forces were not in a position to share intelligence with each other and to draw reasonable conclusions from it. The regulatory environment prohibited taking any other action. In the end, Ressam "deported" himself, by driving across the American border with RDX explosive in liquid form and a sophisticated timing device for a bomb. We are fortunate that he did not kill anyone.
Terrorism and organized crime represent a significant challenge to Democratic Nations. They take advantage of our freedoms to advance their own interests, while undermining the system itself through violence and corruption. Addressing this challenge can itself result in a limitation of individual freedoms which threatens the common heritage of the United States and Canada. Action is necessary, but precipitate action is dangerous too.
In all fairness, reform is in the works. The recent Supreme Court decision on deportation is evidence that Ottawa is beginning to take internal security more seriously. Canada is involved in multilateral negotiations about stemming international organized crime, and has always been ready to share information with its allies and partners. However, until Ottawa is ready to take substantive internal action towards reforming its refugee system, and to redress the weakness of its police and security, its responses will be inadequate. Deeds, not words, are the requirement of the day.
Canada owes protection to its own citizens, and as a responsible neighbour, can not allow threats to the United States to develop on its own territory. We could do a better job.
The Mackenzie Institute
PO Box 338, Adelaide Station Toronto, Ontario M5C-2J4
Tel: (905) 771-3835 email [email protected]
Description and Mission Statement
Established in 1986 in Toronto, the Mackenzie Institute is a non-profit organization dedicated to the provision of research and comment on issues relating to organized violence and political instability. Among other things, it investigates and discusses terrorism, organized crime, general conflict, and radical ideologies across - and sometimes beyond - the political spectrum.
The purpose of the Mackenzie Institute is to enhance informed and civil debate on contentious issues. It is named for the Canadian voyageur, Alexander Mackenzie, who was the first European to cross the broad reaches of North America by land. He had the courage to trace routes that people believed existed, but feared to attempt. We believe that we follow the same tradition.
The Institute's founder was Dr. Maurice Tugwell, formerly a Brigadier in the British Army (Parachute Regiment) with experience ranging from the Second World War to Ulster in the 1970s. Since 1990, its Executive Director has been John Thompson. The Institute has always been based in Toronto.
The organization publishes a quarterly newsletter, and has publicly released some 43 other research papers and monographs. It is a heavily used source of media comment, and does undertake consulting work upon request.
The Institute is constituted as a registered charity, deriving much of its funding from individuals and foundations. It does not accept grants from governments. This by-law has limited the size of the Institute, but not its integrity.
Work on extremists and criminals has had a small price, and the Institute does not make its office and archives available to the public. On the other hand, the Institute has garnered praise from several directions:
"... produces some of the most important research on public policy issues in Canada today."
- The Toronto Sun
'[one of eight] organizations generally considered to be the closest thing Canada has to think tanks,"
- The Globe and Mail (A back-handed compliment, but still appreciated)
"... a very respectable think tank..."
- Calgary Sun
"Everything we hear today and have heard for the last weeks in this House, the Mackenzie Institute has been telling us for months."
- Don Boudria, MP.
"... scholarly in procedure, moderate in tone and protective of democratic principles."
- The Vancouver Sun
"Cannot be tolerated any longer, thus we take the only option available to us, armed revolutionary action."
- Militant Direct Action Task Force (the group sent a bomb to the Institute in 1995).
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