Welcome to Canada?

By Robert Sibley, The Ottawa  CitizenSeptember 2, 2011

It should go without saying that the majority of immigrants come to  Canada in search of a better life. But in today’s concluding essay, Robert  Sibley draws on intelligence specialists, Muslim scholars and academics to argue  that Canadians need to recognize that immigration has implications for national  security and that the system needs to be reformed.


I have never learned to fight for my freedom. I was only good at enjoying  it.

— Dutch writer Oscar van den Booguard, 2006.


When a Canadian is concerned about his own way of life, this concern is  not racism.

— David Lam, the former lieutenant-governor of British Columbia.


David Harris remembers a phone conversation a short time after he’d returned  to his Ottawa home from a trip to the United States in the spring of 1999. He’d  been in Washington, testifying before a congressional subcommittee about the  threat Canada posed to the United States as a potential source for  terrorism.

The call involved an official at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, headed  at the time by ambassador Raymond Chrétien, the nephew of then-prime minister  Jean Chrétien. The official admonished Harris for having spoken against Canadian  interests, at least as perceived by the embassy.

“I was told I’d upset certain people at the embassy in Washington,” says  Harris, recalling the incident nearly 12 years later. Harris still declines to  attach a name to the voice on the other end of the phone line. “Let’s just say  they didn’t appreciate my testimony.”

What had Harris said that so troubled the diplomats? Actually, nothing anyone  abreast of security matters didn’t already know: Canada was falling short when  it came to dealing with the threat of terrorism, especially at the political  level.

In 1998, three years before the 9/11 attacks, Ward Elcock, then the director  of the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service, highlighted the Chrétien  government’s apparent reluctance to take that threat seriously when he publicly  warned there were “more international terrorist groups active here (in Canada)  than in any country in the world,” with perhaps the exception of the United  States. Surely, he said, Canadians didn’t want their country becoming “some R  and R facility for terrorists” or through negligence and inaction “an unofficial  state sponsor of terrorism.”

That’s essentially what Harris, a one-time chief of strategic planning for  CSIS, said in his testimony to the House of Representatives subcommittee on  immigration: The Liberal government wasn’t serious about national security. “In  the face of this situation, Canada’s security and intelligence community have  done heroic work. But government reaction at the political level has not been  adequate to the counterterrorist task.”

It’s not surprising such statements would upset the embassy. Canadian  diplomats in Washington devoted much attention to reassuring American  officialdom that all is well in the peaceable kingdom. Harris’s testimony was a  scrawl across the embassy’s happy-face poster. As Harris puts it: “They saw what  I was doing as undermining their diplomatic efforts. It was made very clear they  were dissatisfied with me.”

They should have been dissatisfied with their own complacency considering  that a few months later, in December 1999, a refugee claimant by the name of  Ahmed Ressam, who’d been living on welfare and petty crime in Canada for four  years, was captured by U.S. customs agents trying to smuggle explosives across  the border as part of an end-of-the-millennium al-Qaeda plot to blow up Los  Angeles airport.

Harris’s testimony effectively underscored how it was possible for Ressam to  operate a terrorist cell in Canada for so long. “Americans often tell me that it  is difficult to think of Canada and international terrorism in the same  context,” he said. “Canadians themselves have the same problem. But the largely  untold truth is that Canada and terrorism do go together. A failure to see this  stems from a failure to realize that Canada is simply not the country it used to  be.”

For decades, Canadians have been told — propagandized, some might say — high  levels of immigration sustain economic growth, avoid labour shortages and make  up for an aging population. Challenging these claims treads on numerous toes — politicians who regard the immigration system as a vote-importing scheme,  corporations that want workers on the cheap, and an immigration industry  composed of lawyers, consultants, settlement groups and activists enjoy all the  benefits taxpayer money can buy.

Canada has the largest per capita level of immigration in the world — some  280,000 immigrants and refugee claimants a year for a population of 34 million.  In early 2009, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney was decidedly upbeat in  pointing out that if you include “temporary” workers and students the number is  in the 500,000 range.

Do Canadians as a whole support this? Hard to say. They can’t vote directly  on the issue of immigration, and political parties avoid serious discussion of  the topic like the plague. But a recent worldwide poll by Ipsos suggests neither  the politicians nor the immigration lobby would like any vote results. More than  half of Canadians — about 56 per cent — think immigration places too much of a  burden on public services. A recent study by researchers Herbert Grubel and  Patrick Grady lends support to that judgment. They estimate newcomers cost  Canadians between $16 billion and $23 billion a year because they receive more  in government benefits than they contribute in taxes.

It borders on banal to point out that the majority of immigrants come to  Canada seeking nothing more than a better future. The problem is, there are some  among those hundreds of thousands who are hostile to Canada’s liberal order.  This minority, say immigration critics, has become increasingly influential  since the 9/11 attacks, attempting by various means — lawfare campaigns against  journalists and “human rights” complaints against publishers to what Harris  calls “stealth jihad” and “infiltration” campaigns — to promote an anti-liberal  agenda.

In this regard, Canada’s immigration policies have made the country  susceptible to radical ideological influences because, in Harris’s words, they “reinforce the growth of a dangerous political demographic.”

Harris, the founder of INSIGNIS Strategic Research and a lawyer with 30  years’ experience in intelligence affairs, took that message to Parliament Hill  earlier this year. “One cannot discuss immigrant integration in the national  security and public-safety context without appreciating the sheer magnitude of  Canada’s immigration, refugee and related intakes,” he told a Senate committee. “In recent years, tens of thousands came to Canada from Muslim-majority lands.  At a time when radical Islam is a threat and nine of 10 Canadian Muslims are  foreign-born, one must ask about the attitudes newcomers bring from source  countries.”

Martin Collacott, a former Canadian ambassador and now a spokesman for the  Centre for Immigration Policy Reform, raises similar concerns in several studies  that consider the connection between immigration and national security in the  post-9/11 era. Mass migration at current levels, he argues, is basically  incompatible with national security because it overwhelms the ability of  government agencies to screen out security threats. Moreover, it creates large  immigrant enclaves — a 2004 Statistics Canada report states there were more than  250 “visible minority neighbourhoods” in Canada, up from six in 1981 — that  serve as a pool that allows, unknowingly or not, terrorist groups to operate  largely out of sight.

It is simply not possible, says Collacott, to provide adequate security  screening when you’re dealing with hundreds of thousands of immigrants. And this  failure to exercise adequate control over the entry and departure of  non-Canadians “has been a significant factor in making Canada a destination for  terrorism.”

Some of Canada’s more prominent Muslim intellectuals and journalists make a  similar case. “One of the explosive issues in Canadian politics, as it is in  other western countries, is immigration,” says Salim Mansur, a political  scientist at the University of Western Ontario. “Since 9/11, this issue has  become important or, it might even be said, vital in discussing the future shape  of the country in terms of its inherited cultural and political values. Most  Canadians realize the unprecedented immigration numbers over the past several  decades, and the composition of newly arriving immigrants, have adversely and  unduly accelerated the pace of changing the country’s profile.”

But why, if Canada is so vulnerable to a terrorist presence, has it been one  of the few western countries not directly attacked by terrorists?

“That’s the big question people don’t ask,” says Raheel Raza, a Toronto  journalist and author. “There is a good reason for this. Canada is a safe haven  for the Islamists. They don’t want to expose the fact that they have infiltrated  into government departments and outreach programs.”

Collacott, who was once director general of security services for Foreign  Affairs, echoes that view. Terrorist groups see Canada as a place for  fundraising and planning operations that will take place elsewhere. It is not  unreasonable to think they wouldn’t target Canada because that would “risk  jeopardizing the relative freedom with which they were able to able to carry on  their activities.”

Why would any law-and-order liberal society allow this? Try arrogance  leavened with ignorance. Or, as Harris puts it: “Rational polities do not bring  in large numbers of newcomers from such potentially ‘western-hostile’ sources  regions (as Pakistan and Iran) while a war is going on. But they might if their  influential intellectual elite were bereft of a proper sense of the risks  involved, and therefore of the appropriate balance (between liberty and  security).”

Of course, to question the mythology of immigration is to invite  denunciations of “racism” and “bigotry” or, as is currently popular, “Islamophobia.” Moreover, in the aftermath of the Norwegian killings,  questioning immigration or multiculturalism makes many even more desperate to be  politically correct.

However, critics of Canada’s immigration policies contend that in the  post-9/11 era it is morally irresponsible and intellectually untenable to deny a  connection between immigration, Islamism and terrorism — “Canada’s leading  terrorist threat has repeatedly been identified as Islamic extremism,” Harris  notes — and this connection cannot go unchallenged if Canadians wish to preserve  their liberal democratic order. According to critics, the immigration system  contributes to the erosion of Canada’s liberal secular values by creating  conditions that make it easier for ideas and practices antithetical to liberal  society — gender inequality, polygamy, demands for prohibitions on “anti-religious” speech, Sharia law — to gain a foothold of acceptance in the  public arena.

“The recent openness of several public universities to radical demands for  taxpayer-supported prayer rooms, footbaths, and even separate, gender  apartheid-style female swimming hours could be regarded as a compromising of  basic, religiously-neutral standards in the face of fundamentalist pressure,” says Harris.

These are, no doubt, controversial claims. Yet, there is anecdotal evidence,  as well as scholarly commentary, to suggest concerns about immigrants and  national security aren’t unreasonable, or irresponsible.

Ahmed Hussen, the head of the Canadian Somali Congress, testified in late  July before the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security — seems  you have to appear before a congressional committee in Washington to get  attention in Canada — that dozens of young Canadian Somalis had “disappeared” to  join al-Shabaab, a radical militia tied to al-Qaeda that is fighting to impose  an Islamist regime on Somalia. He blamed “radicals in our community” that feed  the young a “dangerous and constant anti-western narrative.”

The RCMP reported in June they’d used various “disruptive” techniques — intrusive surveillance, for example — to defuse potential terrorist  activities.

Then there was Mohammad Momin Khawaja, a Canadian-born Muslim software  engineer working under contract to the Foreign Affairs Department, convicted in  2009 for his part in international jihadist plots. As well, the so-called  Toronto 18, mostly young Canadian-born Muslims, were recently convicted of  plotting terrorist strikes against Canadian institutions, including blowing up  Parliament and beheading the prime minister.

Do these few examples reflect a “dangerous political demographic”? Consider  this: A 2007 Environics poll indicated 12 per cent of Canadian Muslims would be  prepared to justify the kinds of terrorist assaults contemplated by the Toronto  18. There are about 800,000 Muslims in Canada. The Environics poll results imply  that 96,000 could justify the murder of the prime minister.

Such numbers prompt immigration critics to raise the issue of radical  influences working their way into Canada’s institutions, including schools,  government agencies, courts, the police and military, and legislative bodies.  Indeed, in 2010, the Muslim Canadian Congress, applauding Defence Minister Peter  MacKay’s cancellation of a speech at the department’s Ottawa headquarters by  imam Zijad Delic, said it was “troubled by the fact that Islamists had managed  to penetrate the highest levels of the Ottawa bureaucracy and the political  apparatus of all political parties.”

Congress vice-president Salma Siddiqui “strongly welcomed” MacKay’s decision  not only for exposing the fraud of Islamic History Month but also for acting in  the best interests of national security. “In the past few years we have seen  so-called Islamic History Month turned into a propaganda machine for Islamists  who want to introduce Sharia law and who wish to hide behind the cover of  teaching history to infiltrate the highest levels of government in Ottawa.”

In 2008, the organization charged that the Ontario Human Rights Commission,  in its pursuit of complaints against journalist Mark Steyn and Maclean’s  magazine, had become, in Siddiqui’s words, “the virtual organ of Canada’s  Islamist organizations.”

Harris believes the RCMP Community Outreach program is compromised. The  program “has been so fraught with mismanagement that Muslim moderates want it  shuttered because of concerns that it has legitimized radical elements by ‘engaging’ them in outreach.”

Islamist zealots are a minority within Islam, says Salim Mansur, but that  doesn’t mean Islamist views aren’t influential. “The politics of Islamism  resonate widely among Muslims, including those living in western countries,” says the author of a newly published book, Delectable Lie: A Liberal Repudiation  of Multiculturalism. “Muslims engage politically to bring their host western  governments to recognize Sharia and make allowance for them to live in  accordance with its provision. The push for Sharia recognition in family laws as  part of the multicultural arrangement in the West has become one of the key  objectives of immigrant Muslim activists, and as the Muslim population grows in  numbers the mainstream political parties have also become increasingly receptive  to this idea.”

So it seems. In 2004, former Ontario attorney general Marion Boyd recommended  allowing the application of Sharia law in family arbitration and inheritance  cases involving Muslims. Premier Dalton McGuinty declined the idea.

What is to be done? In the first place, says Mansur, Canadians need to ignore  the strictures of political correctness and look at immigration realistically.  Islamist groups cynically use liberalism’s principles of religious freedom to  espouse an anti-liberal agenda that would, if successful, eliminate liberalism’s  most sacrosanct concepts.

Canadians also must insist that there is one law for all. Minorities have  rights, yes, but so do majorities. “What we need are better definitions of what  newcomers can reasonably expect in terms of accommodation,” says Collacott. “We  should remain as open and inclusive as possible but at the same time not be  reticent about stating clearly how we do things here.”

Last, but not least, the government’s handling of the immigration file  requires more critical scrutiny. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has been  holding cross-country “consultations” on the immigration system. Many of those  appearing at the meetings are the very individuals and groups that benefit from  high immigration levels. What do you think the minister is going to hear?

At a recent meeting in Vancouver, Kenney quite rightly questioned whether  Canadians would accept higher immigration levels. Yet, he seemed almost  regretful that a lack of resources makes it difficult to bring in even larger  numbers of immigrants. And during the federal election earlier this year he  positively bragged that Canada had accepted more immigrants in 2010 than in any  other year.

The minister has earned kudos for going after war criminals, keeping  human-trafficking ships from Canadian shores, and stripping citizenship from  immigrants who supposedly lied to get into the country. Worthy gestures,  perhaps, but the litmus test of immigration “reform” is in the numbers. Booting  a couple thousand illegal immigrants or a couple dozen war criminals out of the  country might garner headlines, but that means little if you still allow more  than a quarter-million immigrants into the country every year, many without  adequate security screening.

“The objective fact is that within the last five years, at the height of the  escalating terrorist threat, the government has actually, unbelievably,  increased immigration levels from what were already the highest per capita  numbers in the world,” says Harris. “Tens of thousands of people have come from  jurisdictions that regard a country like Canada as anathema.”

The reality is, say critics, that Canada needs at the very least to curtail  immigration from a number of countries. “Wahhabi culture is very predominant in  some parts of the Muslim world,” says Muslim author and activist Farzana Hassan, “and those countries would definitely fall under the category (of places) where  you would need to restrict immigration.”

“Public safety and social cohesion demand an immediate moratorium on  immigration to Canada from Pakistan, Somalia and other radical-Islamist and  terrorist-producing countries,” says Raheel Raza, a journalist and activist born  in Pakistan.

Canadians, in short, need to recognize that immigration has implications for  national security. “A decisive determinant of future Canadian security and  reliability (as an ally of the United States) is Canada’s immigration and  refugee system,” Harris writes in the latest edition of Diplomat and  International Canada. “Few would have realized, when I testified before that  pre-9/11 congressional body (in 1999), how vulnerable Canada was becoming to  terrorism, radical infiltration and illicit influence.”


In addition to interviews, I have drawn on or consulted academic and  non-academic material for this essay, including, among others:

Martin Collacott, “Immigration levels are already too high,” Ottawa  Citizen, Aug. 12, 2011; “Creating a common security perimeter,” 2009; “Submission to the Bouchard-Taylor Commission,” 2007; Canada’s Inadequate  Response to Terrorism: The Need for Policy Reform, 2006; Terrorism, Refugees,  and Homeland Security, 2002.

Herb Grubel and Patrick Grady, Immigration and the Canadian Welfare State,  Fraser Institute, 2011

Salim Mansur, Delectable Lie: A Liberal Repudiation of Multiculturalism,  2011; “Immigration’s the Elephant in the Room,” Toronto Sun, April 21, 2011; “Immigration and Muslim Extremists in the post-9/11 World,” in Immigration  Policy and The Terrorist Threat in Canada and the United States, Fraser  Institute, 2009; “Immigration and Multiculturalism Undermine Culture and  Security in Canada,” in The Effects of Mass Migration, Fraser Institute,  2009.

Alexander Moens and Martin Collacott, “Making Canadians Immigration System  and Borders More Secure,” Immigration Policy and the Terrorist Threat in Canada  and the United States, 2008.

David Harris, “Statement on Immigration Integration, National Security and  Public Safety to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and  Technology,” Feb. 3, 2011; “Is Canada Losing the Balance between Liberty and  Security,” 2008; “Testimony before the subcommittee on immigration and claims of  the United States House of Representatives,” June 2006; “Testimony before the  subcommittee on immigration and claims of the United States House of  Representatives,” April 1999.

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa  Citizen

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