Canadian Politics from Canada's Centre

Friday, April 06, 2007

Canadian National Security and Immigration

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Irwin Cotler's approach to Canadian national security and immigration is expressed beautifully in a news release on his site. In the debate over two clauses of the Anti-Terrorism Act, Cotler kept a cool head and showed that the security and human rights are not mutually exclusive. Of particular interest is Cotler's commentary on immigration, in light of a recent speech by David Harris, formerly of CSIS. CSIS is Canada's intelligence agency, and it is part of Canada's national security apparatus aimed at fighting terror.

Here's what Cotler had to say:

"All this now assumes a particular importance because this debate on the extension of these two provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act is not the end of the story, but only the beginning. For what is needed now is an informed -- and principled -- parliamentary debate and review, particularly in light of recent events. The Supreme Court of Canada has unanimously invalidated provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that denied persons named in security certificates a right to a fair hearing -- the right to know and be able to rebut the information against them. The court has suspended the impugned provisions for a year pending parliamentary review.

"But the unsatisfactory Hobson's choice in the security certificate regime still remains -- the deportation to a country where there is a substantial risk of torture or prolonged detention with all that implies. Parliament needs to legislate middle-ranged, and principled options."

To understand where security certificates come from, you need to understand Canadian demographics. Canadians do not have enough babies for the population to grow, so Canada relies on immigration for population growth. According to Harris, the former CSIS section director, Canada absorbs over a quarter of a million immigrants a year. The problem this poses to our security services is that screening 250,000 people's histories is not feasible with the resources that are available to them.

To compensate, we rely on security certificates, which allow our national security apparatus to detain without charges those immigrants that are deemed threatening to Canadian national security.

While I don't have Harris' words verbatim at my disposal, I do have notes from his speech that paraphrase what he was saying. His point on immigration follows. (Note that at another point, Harris expressly said he didn't think that a bigger police/military/security apparatus was the [best?] solution to the problem. Here are my notes:

Q: Didn’t address how to tackle terrorism...
A: We need to figure out what we’re about. How we achieved as a civilization, one of the most progressive living environments and economically privileged that our world has known. Gets into pluralism, respect for others opinions. Also, encouraging self-confidence in the West. To say [criticism can go - filling in from memory here] so-far, and no further.
Interconnected with immigration and refugee situation. Done very well by “artistry”[?] of immigration. But we can no longer manage the way we are going, based on numbers. Need to bring them in line with our ability to screen people.
Exposure to the other has civilized all of us.

So what do you think? Let's hear your ideas and solutions on balancing national security with a

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Here are some related articles:

Are Extremists Logical? Can we negotiate?
September 11th 2006 Tribute
Bernard Lewis, Middle East scholar
The State of National Security in Canadian Politics

This article and related articles are archived in the topical categories , Canadian national security, , .Go back home

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