Why can’t Canada get rid of people we don’t want here?

This piece appeared in The Hill Times on April 2, 2018


Is it just me or is it strange that an independent, secular democracy cannot make simple decisions on whom it wants to allow to stay in the country?  We are speaking here of immigrants, of course, since those lucky enough to have been born here have an inherent right to remain.  A State should, one would think, have the ultimate authority to welcome anyone to its shores after having presumably taken into consideration factors such as demographic needs, national security, international humanitarian commitments and an assessment of the benefits accruing through the admission of a given individual.  Similarly, the State should have that same authority to remove someone who doesn’t belong, for reasons we will discuss below.  From what I gather, we in Canada are having a hard time doing this.

I’d rather not go into the protracted national security certificate cases in this article as I have already done so on various occasions and I do not want to repeat myself.  There are, however, other instances in which the federal government seems incapable of removing someone who arrived here under dubious circumstances and who, simply stated, have no right to remain.  Two of these cases involve an alleged Palestinian terrorist who has been in our country for 33 years despite an outstanding deportation order and an Iraqi-Israeli double agent who claims that he will be tortured if he is returned to his native Tunisia.   The ‘torture card’ is frequently played, although it is not as robust as one might think.

Canada is a nation of immigrants and proudly so.  There are those who think that, anti-immigrant sentiment in certain quarters notwithstanding, we need more and not fewer immigrants to keep our economy growing. Based on what I have read, the reasons proffered by those in favour outweigh those put forward by the xenophobic crowd.

Immigration must be done carefully, however, lest we end up accepting individuals with unsavoury pasts who may pose a threat to national security and/or public safety  in the future.  Normally, the vetting procedures for ensuring that the right people make it here are done before they cross our borders.  Agencies such as CSIS and the RCMP help Citizenship and Immigration and the Canada Border Services Agency obtain the best intelligence and information available in order to make the best decision possible.  The system does work well from what I have seen, although mistakes are made and some people that really don’t belong here do succeed in landing at our airports.  Those mistakes are often tied to a gap in information, one that is filled after their arrival.

What then should be done in cases such as these?  Fundamentally, those people should be deported.  Anyone who misrepresents  himself on an immigration form – in other words, who lies or fails to offer important details – has in essence arrived in Canada fraudulently.  Fraudulent applications should constitute automatic removal in my opinion.

Those that have been members of terrorist organisations or worked for foreign intelligence agencies, and who are not surprisingly most likely not to own up to those relationships when they apply, do represent a threat to our security and to our representation as  a nation.  I fail to see why these individuals are still here.

Which brings us to the torture card.  It is indeed a smart ploy to claim that removal will lead to incarceration and mistreatment and there are, alas, far too many countries that engage in human rights violations.  Are all these fears warranted?  It is hard to say.  In addition, should Canada rule to allow a member of a known terrorist group to remain in our country, regardless of torture fears?   Would Canadians be ok with granting residence status to an Islamic State terrorist who raped Yazidi girls but who says he would be tortured by Iraqi officials if he were returned to that nation?

Are there not ways to deport someone to a third country and obtain assurances, with verification, that he will not be mistreated?  Or is this naivete in extremis?  Great questions to which I have no answers.  Nevertheless, Canada has deported people to countries where torture is a possibility and I cannot recall a single instance where those removed were in fact mistreated.

There is a fine line between acting as a responsible member of the international community and being played as a dupe.  The longer Canada rules in favour of keeping terrorists and double agents among us the greater the chance we will be seen as the latter.



By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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