This piece appeared in The Epoch Times Canada on October 8, 2023.
Canada has long bragged of its immigrant nature. Successive governments dating back over a century have allowed millions to come to our shores, become Canadians, and build the country we know and love. The current administration under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has a goal of 465,000 new immigrants in 2023 , rising to 485,000 next year and 500,000 in 2025.
The vast majority of us support immigration, even if the more recent levels have bothered some. Oh sure, there are those who subscribe to the “Great Replacement” theory hogwash and for whom one immigrant is one too many, but these folks are a sidebar at best.
For the record, I am a proponent of immigration. How could I not be, as I am the product of Eastern European (Polish and Ukrainian) arrivals 100-plus years ago? New Canadians have been the bedrock of our society and our economy for decades and will continue to be so.
This doesn’t mean, however, that caution should not be taken when it comes to deciding whom to allow in. Our security service CSIS (where I worked for 15 years) and border agency CBSA must have the resources to scrutinize applicants to ensure we are not giving permission to criminals, or even terrorists, to pitch their tents here. In all honesty, we have a checkered past in this regard. There are ample cases of individuals who should never have been brought here in the first place given their past activities but who are still amongst us and cannot, it seems, be removed.
The other challenge we face is the baggage some immigrants haul with them when they come to our land. Diaspora communities often hold on to issues for long periods of time and ironically are out of step with their fellow countrymen back home who have moved on.
We have seen this in Canada when it comes to several homeland conflicts that immigrants continue to embrace here. It was not that long ago when thousands would march in Ottawa in support of their Tamil confreres in Sri Lanka, replete with the flag of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a brutal terrorist entity that killed thousands in Sri Lanka and India for decades before the Sri Lankan army “defeated” them in 2009.
There have also been supporters of Sikh terrorists in Canada who proudly display the photos of the terrorists behind the 1985 Air India bombing which killed 329, mostly Canadians, off the coast of Ireland. The presence of adherents to those who advocate the use of violence in the creation of an independent Khalistan in the Punjab area of India has lit a fire under the latter, which accuses Canada of turning a blind eye to Sikh terrorists in B.C. and Ontario.
This brings me to recent news that individuals in Toronto have been seen unfurling Palestinian flags on overpasses to “celebrate” the ongoing Hamas incursion into Israel. A social media posting by a group calling itself Toronto4Palestine read: “A banner drop is happening today to honour and celebrate the resistance and continued solidarity with Palestinians living under occupation. A few people wish to hand out sweets to celebrate the resistance and its next level accomplishments.”
Does this constitute support for terrorism under Canadian law? Not necessarily…
Canada maintains what are known as “listed terrorist entities.” This has been around since 2002 and is a list of terrorist groups for which it is illegal to participate in their activities or to provide financial assistance. Hamas is a listed entity, as are Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and Hezballah. All, of course, have been behind attacks on Israel spanning several decades.
If the supporters of Palestine limit themselves to flying their flag, no criminal offence has been committed. If a Hamas or Hezballah flag makes an appearance, however, things get interesting. Does this constitute “support” for a listed entity? If so, why were LTTE fans allowed to fly their banners years ago, or Sikh activists allowed to show pictures of terrorists today? It will be fascinating to see what action, if any, law enforcement takes at the behest of the government (and what charges will be laid).
I imagine my former colleagues at CSIS are monitoring this closely. Should the war go on for some time there is every possibility that matters could boil over, even here in Canada. Israeli interests, as well as Jewish targets, could be identified for attacks by extremist Palestinians or others here. I suppose we will have to wait and see.
The lesson in all this? Terrorism seldom, if ever, goes away for good. Whenever you hear that a given group is “dead” (Somalia claims that Al Shabaab, which has been carrying out attacks for almost 20 years, is drawing its last gasp) be skeptical. And never ever think that the animus between Israel and Palestine has ebbed. Nor is it likely to get any better any time soon.