Canada a haven for terrorists, new book claims

The Vancouver Sun (British Columbia)
March 8, 2004 Monday Final Edition

Canada a haven for terrorists, new book claims: National Post
reporter says the country is a renowned hub of global terrorism

by Mary Vallis

TORONTO — An Armenian immigrant who participated in Canada’s first
major terrorist incident 22 years ago still lives in Toronto and
plays guitar in a band, according to a new book probing the country’s
terrorist ties.

Cold Terror: How Canada Nurtures and Exports Terrorism Around the
World explores how Canada has evolved into an internationally
renowned hub of global terrorism. Written by National Post reporter
Stewart Bell, the book contains exclusive interviews with victims of
terrorist attacks, senior intelligence officials and terrorists
themselves.

In September 2003, at a nondescript coffee shop in Little Italy, Bell
met with Haig Gharakhanian, one of three Armenians convicted of
plotting to kill a Turkish diplomat in Ottawa. The man was nervous
because his band’s CD was about to be released and he had just met
with CSIS to get clearance for his Canadian citizenship, but spoke
with Bell anyway.

“As we were speaking, the lead singer of his band comes in and sits
down,” Bell recalled. “You could just see this guy’s eyes widening as
he listens to the guy who’s been his guitar player and roommate for
years explaining his involvement in terrorism.”

Gharakhanian, who was just 17 years old when he participated in the
attack, spent nine months in prison for his role in the 1982 shooting
of Kani Gungor. The diplomat was left paralyzed. Gharakhanian, who
had Iranian citizenship, helped scout out the target and delivered a
letter to the United Press International’s Los Angeles office, in
which the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA)
claimed responsibility for the attack.

After he was released on parole, Gharakhanian applied for refugee
status and successfully fought a deportation order. Bell uses his
case as one example that illustrates how Canada’s immigration policy
has fuelled the country’s links to terrorism.

“He got a very light sentence. He was not deported because the
immigration judges felt sorry for him, and now he’s about to become a
citizen,” Bell said of Gharakhanian. “That was our beginning. We
treated a guy who was basically a terrorist sympathetically, and that
set the stage for everything that’s followed ….”

Bell’s book, released today, chronicles how Canada became a haven for
some of the world’s most powerful terrorist organizations. It also
features newly uncovered pieces of an internal CSIS report written in
the days after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The report shows that as Jean Chretien stood up in the House of
Commons and proclaimed Canada free of terrorists planning attacks,
CSIS had concluded al-Qaida had operatives in Canada and could list
them by name.

Bell argues Canadian politicians do not pay enough attention to
warnings from security intelligence officials. Politicians have not
taken a strong stand against terrorism in part because they fear they
will alienate some of their core voter support — namely interest
groups who promise to deliver ethnic voting blocks.

“Canadians like to think of themselves as benevolent world citizens,
peacekeepers in blue berets who bring kindness and calm to troubled
lands,” Bell writes.

“The cold truth is that, since the early 1980s, Canada has become a
source country of international terrorism. Former prime minister Jean
Chretien used to boast that the United Nations Human Development
Index showed Canada was the best country in the world in which to
live. In the past two decades, it also became the best country in the
world for terrorists to make their home.”

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