Assessing Canada’s vulnerability

| June 26, 2011 | 0 Comments

In war and peace, the support and confidence of allies can be decisive for a country’s survival and prosperity. Canada’s profound reliance on its trade, defence and other ties to the United States means that Canadians have a crucial interest in keeping borders and diplomatic, military and intelligence channels open with their neighbour. This access depends on preserving Canada’s reputation as a credible security partner in the terrorism and intelligence struggles that threaten the U.S. survival interest. Several American departments, to say nothing of the U.S. Congress itself, worries about threats in Canada as well as other countries around the world, even as the U.S. worries about its own considerable domestic security vulnerabilities.
Well before 9/11, I testified before a U.S. Congressional sub-committee that was concerned about the Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s (CSIS) 1998 public warning that Canada was possibly exceeded only by the United States in the number of terrorist organizations on its soil. If American officials were uneasy then, one can only imagine their discomfort with today’s growing Canadian security problems.
Recall, for example, how it was Canadian-based Sikh extremists who caused the world’s biggest pre-9/11 aviation-terror disaster, the 1985 Air India Flight 182 bombing. So much for lessons learned. Thanks to Canada’s relatively relaxed security and its immense, almost unscreenable, immigration numbers, India’s security officials now regard Canada — not India — as a font of international Sikh extremism.
This is a tiny part of the deteriorating security position that the American embassy in Ottawa will note as it takes stock of Canada in the wake of the Conservative Party’s election victory.
U.S. observers will see that much trouble comes from politicians’ unprincipled attempts to ingratiate themselves with large ethno-cultural and religious communities created by enormous immigration influxes. In the recent election, Liberal Party Leader Michael Ignatieff met a Sikh editor who once celebrated Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination and the beating of a moderate Canadian Sikh politician. The Conservatives ran a Canadian Tamil as a candidate who had hosted a documentary with an apparent homage to Tamil Tigers terrorist “martyrs.” Meanwhile, a Muslim Canadian author insists that Islamic radicals have penetrated the New Democratic Party, now the country’s Official Opposition.
In 2010, Richard Fadden, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service  warned of illicit foreign-influence operations in Canada. One or two provincial cabinets might contain ministers under such influence, he said; certain municipal governments and bureaucracies face similar penetration. Mr. Fadden signalled that China was a major problem in such regards.
Influence operations are significant threats to national sovereignty and democratic systems because they have the potential to covertly hijack policy and political decision-making. Yet Mr. Fadden’s July 2010 parliamentary committee appearance elicited little interest on MPs’ part in putting the compelling question: Are elements of Canada’s politico-bureaucratic system penetrated? In a study in irony, separatist Bloc Québécois committee member Maria Mourani called loudest for Mr. Fadden’s resignation for daring to raise the influence issue. Ms. Mourani reportedly distributed pro-Hamas propaganda and maintained disturbingly close associations with diplomats of hardline North African and Middle Eastern countries.
On the China ledger, American congressional leaders recently mobilized on security grounds against Chinese telecom giant Huawei’s plan to buy into the U.S. market. Huawei denies links with China’s government, but the purchase attempt was thwarted. In Canada, however, there was no serious debate as the company partnered with sensitive Canadian telecom systems (and gained a $6.5 million Ontario grant).
U.S. officials will doubtless ponder Canada’s radical-Islamic threat. In June 2011, a Chicago court convicted Pakistani-born Canadian citizen Tahawwur Hussain Rana for supporting Pakistan’s Lashkar-e-Taiba extremist group, and for plotting the aborted attack on a Danish newspaper that printed controversial cartoons of Islam’s prophet, Muhammad. In Canada, there were convictions in the Toronto 18 plot to invade parliament, behead the prime minister and blow up Toronto landmarks, and there was a conviction in the Khawaja case of a privileged young Muslim man employed by our federal government and engaged in international jihadism. Concern is reinforced by a 2007 poll indicating that 12 percent of Canadian Muslims — as many as 119,000 people — could sympathize with a Toronto 18-type plot.
The U.S. military pinpointed Montreal’s Al Sunnah mosque as among nine international sites that had been connected to terrorist recruitment or other involvement. Eighty percent of Canadian mosques are said to be dominated by radicals. Money pours into Muslim institutions from radical Gulf sources.
Radical influence works its way into Canadian educational institutions. An Islamic chair is being established at University of Western Ontario-affiliated Huron University College, with the aid of Libya-connected players, a radical U.S. Muslim institute and the Muslim Brotherhood-oriented Muslim Association of Canada. A Carleton University Islamic centre welcomed pre-eminent Brotherhood figure Tariq Ramadan to headline at least one major event. And at least one publicly-funded Toronto-area law school teaches a sharia law course.
The educational aspect of these situations raises questions about the shaping of Canadian minds in ways hostile to North American security.
Sophisticated observers in ethno-cultural communities warn about infiltration threats in Canadian public administration and the private sector. The moderate Muslim Canadian Congress declared that even the language-policing Ontario Human Rights Commission had been penetrated by sharia supporters at both commissioner and staff levels.
The controversial RCMP community outreach 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.
In 2010, an Ottawa outreach committee RCMP officer enthusiastically distributed an RCMP “diversity committee” member’s invitation to a “peace conference” sponsored by four Green Party members — along with his own effusive email encouraging attendance. Tehran’s heavy hand seemed to be at work, the conference agenda featuring senior Tehran University faculty, an Iranian “peace” activist whose organization’s website had a cartoon of a hook-nosed, Der Stürmer Jew. Imam Zijad Delic, then executive director of the radical Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC), was originally scheduled; on his watch, the CIC brought Yvonne Ridley — a Taliban apologist and reporter for Iran’s Press TV — on a Canadian speaking tour. Who was the RCMP outreach committee member who co-sponsored the “peace conference” and supplied the conference invitation? Carleton University Sprott School of Business professor Akbar Manoussi, head of an Iranian cultural centre sharing an address with the Iranian embassy, the Canadian seat of a U.S. strategic enemy.
In 2010, Imam Delic was invited to “keynote” at Islamic Heritage Month celebrations at Department of National Defence (DND) headquarters — until, under enormous pressure, the speech was cancelled.
Muslim-moderate Tarek Fatah raised the spectre of infiltration at National Defence in an apparent reference to the role played by the National Capital Region Defence Visible Minority Advisory Group in inviting Imam Delic: “Those officers who wanted him there were themselves military officers who are Muslim, of Pakistani and Egyptian descent, who used their position in the visible minority caucus at DND to stage this invitation.”
Islamists within government may be systematically laundering controversial Muslims by facilitating speaking invitations later to be advertised as “proof” of speakers’ moderate bona fides. Indeed, Imam Delic’s supporters implied that only bigotry explained DND’s cancellation, pointing to a previous speaking engagement at Foreign Affairs. No one mentioned that Foreign Affairs’ Muslim Communities Working Group — penetrated by a radical or two — facilitated the invitation.
With an eye to recruiting, DND teams visit mosques, but it is unclear whether specific mosques’ ideology is taken into account. A British Columbia RCMP “Muslims of Tomorrow” youth-outreach gathering gave star billing to an “Islamic scholar” with a predilection for gay-killing scriptural interpretations. Google should have tipped off RCMP outreachers.
Canada’s intellectual elite has disappointed, too. As slaughter proceeds in Iran, the Canadian International Council joined the University of Ottawa in an “Iran” conference, inviting Titra Parsi of the National Iranian American Council, commonly considered a Tehran fellow-traveller. (He eventually withdrew.) The council’s Hamid Jorjani advised award-winning Canadian radio reporter and Iranian dissident, Shabnam Assadollahi, that she would be refused an event media pass. Shocked Canadians learned that conference sponsors included DND and the federally-funded Canadian Association for Security and Intelligence Studies (CASIS). CASIS’ previous embarrassments included having as a panellist at its annual conference a person representing the Canadian chapter of a radical, Saudi-financed Islamic organization later designated an unindicted co-conspirator in America’s biggest terror-funding prosecution.
A decisive determinant of future Canadian security and reliability is Canada’s immigration and refugee system. Canada has the biggest per capita immigration on the planet: 281,000 for a population of less than 34 million and closer to 600,000 if one includes visa-holders. This intake costs the country about $23 billion a year net, and many newcomers come from countries which are problematic in security terms — countries such as China. Leading Canadian Muslim moderate Raheel Raza warns that Pakistan, a cauldron of extremism, is among Canada’s top five immigrant source countries. Declares this Pakistani-Canadian: “Public safety and social cohesion demand an immediate moratorium on immigration to Canada from Pakistan, Somalia and other radical-Islamist and terrorist-producing countries.”
Few would have realized, when I testified before that pre-9/11 congressional body, how vulnerable Canada was becoming to terrorism, radical infiltration and illicit influence. Today, American authorities ponder Canada’s reliability as ally and guarantor of the security of their northern front. They, and Canadians themselves, will have good and growing reason to consider the insistent question: Does Canada really look like a reliable ally with a secure future?

A Canadian lawyer with 30 years in intelligence affairs, David Harris served with CSIS from 1988 to 1990. He left the service to found INSIGNIS Strategic Research Inc. and to establish its intelligence program, where he works today. He has testified on numerous occasions before U.S. congressional and Canadian parliamentary bodies on security issues, and consulted with intelligence organizations in Canada and abroad.

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