An insane suggestion regarding immigration to Canada that undermines security

An edited version of this piece appeared in The Hill Times on July 23, 2018

Is Alex Neve, the secretary-general of Amnesty International Canada insane?

Full disclosure: I have been a supporter of Amnesty International and its work for decades.  I admire the positions they adopt and the advocacy they employ in the interests of prisoners of conscience among other good deeds. As for Mr. Neve, on the other hand, I have not always agreed with his take on certain matters.  He has often been critical of our national security architecture – his defence of Omar Khadr as a ‘child soldier’ is just one example – as is his right.  Organisations such as CSIS and the RCMP need their gadfly and Mr. Neve plays that role.  His recent take on the problems with Canada’s visa immigration system is beyond reason however.

In a recent op-ed for the Globe and Mail Mr. Neve took issue with what he sees as unnecessary complications in securing visitors’ visas for those who happen to live in certain countries: by his count there are “54 countries around the world whose nationals are visa-exempt if they wish to travel to Canada. Citizens of 146 countries are, on the other hand, required to go through the onerous steps of applying for a visa if they wish to visit.”  He analyses this dichotomy by claiming that those exempt nations are “wealthier, have closer trade and other relationships with Canada, and fortunate enough not to face situations of war and serious human-rights abuses.”  He also labels the entire system “discriminatory and unfair”.

I do not work for Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and therefore would never purport to speak for, or defend, their practices.  Maybe there are problems and maybe the whole shebang needs an overall.  I don’t know. But what I do know is that Mr. Neve is woefully ignorant of the national security concerns over immigration and visas, concerns that are legitimate and which no serious country or administration would ignore.

Mr. Neve lists Afghanistan as one of the nations whose citizens have to go through the visa application process.  I would imagine that some of the other 145 countries would include Somalia, Nigeria, Libya, Mali, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq and a few more of similar ilk.  What could these countries possibly have in common?  Wait!  They are all home to strong, and in some cases, growing terrorist organisations and many are in the midst of conflicts in which a terrorist group is one of the adversaries. Is Mr. Neve seriously of the opinion that Canada has no interest in vetting potential visitors who may in fact be terrorists and who may intend us harm?  Really?  So we should just hang out the welcome sign and allow anyone to come to our fair land?  Does anyone besides Mr. Neve think that way?  He maintains that we ensure that those “who apply to visit Canada are treated fairly, without discrimination and, most important, with dignity and respect.”  Would that include Boko Haram terrorist applicants who enslave girls, Islamic State terrorists who rape girls, and Taliban terrorists that kill girls in schools?

In Mr. Neve’s way of seeing things, the biggest concern within the Canadian government is that ‘visitors’ may overstay their welcome and have no intention of heading back home.  I am ignorant as to the scale of this problem, though I am sure it happens (is Mr. Neve okay with this?).  I am also pretty sure that the good folks at CIC have our collective security in mind when they make their decisions, both with respect to individuals seeking visas and countries where all citizens must, unfortunately, endure the vetting process.  I wish it were not so: I also wish that terrorism was a phantom and not a reality.

I have to conclude that Mr. Neve has very little, if any, appreciation for national security.  Luckily for Canadians we have agencies that do.




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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