National Post (Canada)
March 8, 2004 Monday National Edition
Canada makes terrorists feel at home, book says: Cold Terror shows
how we became a haven before 9/11
by Mary Vallis
An Armenian immigrant who participated in Canada’s first major
terrorist incident 22 years ago 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
In September, 2003, at a nondescript coffee shop in Toronto’s Little
Italy, Mr. 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 Mr. Bell anyway.
“As we were speaking, the lead singer of his band comes in and sits
down,” Mr. 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.”
Mr. 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. Mr.
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, Mr. Gharakhanian applied for refugee
status and successfully fought a deportation order. Mr. Bell uses his
case as one example that illustrates how Canada’s generous
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,” Mr. Bell said of Mr. 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… We still see
examples of that every day.”
Mr. 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-Qaeda had operatives in Canada and could list
them by name.
Mr. Bell argues Canadian politicians do not pay enough attention to
warnings from security and 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.
Illustrating his point, Mr. Bell refers to an interview he conducted
with the president of the Montreal chapter of the World Tamil
Movement, which has been identified as a front for the Tamil Tigers.
The man explained how a Liberal party candidate attended one of the
group’s events, and how he directed “all of the Sri Lankan votes” in
Montreal to the Liberals during the last federal election.
Mr. Bell explains how acknowledging this country’s ties to terrorism
defies the image many Canadians have of their homeland.
“Canadians like to think of themselves as benevolent world citizens,
peacekeepers in blue berets who bring kindness and calm to troubled
lands,” he 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.
“Canada has provided a haven, money, propaganda, weapons and foot
soldiers to the globe’s deadliest religious, ethnic and political
extremist movements, murderous organizations that have brought their
wars with them, turning this country into a base for international
Mr. Bell warns Canada is vulnerable to another major attack on its
own soil. “Canada is itself a terror target and has put itself at
greater risk by being nice to terrorists,” he writes. “Terrorists who
feel comfortable enough to raise money and forge passports will not
hesitate to stage attacks here as well.”
GRAPHIC: Black & White Photo: Bruno Sclumberger, Ottawa Citizen; In
Ottawa in 1982, Turkish diplomat Kani Gungor was shot and left
paralyzed in Canada’s first major international terrorist attack. An
Armenian convicted in the ambush has won Canadian citizenship.