The peaceable kingdom isn’t immune

Globe and Mail, Canada
April 28 2004

The peaceable kingdom isn’t immune


Too many Canadians still dream that our “peaceable kingdom” stands
removed from terrorism. The United States is a target, yes. So are
U.S. allies in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. But we morally
superior Canadians? How could anyone want to hurt us?

>From such complacencies are tragedies made. We are a Western country,
firmly anchored in the constellation of like-minded states, living
adjacent to the United States, and made increasingly multicultural
through immigration and refugees.

Just this week, the final stages are unfolding of the Air-India trial
in Vancouver. We have Canadians citizens returning from Pakistan
lauding jihad, and an Ottawa resident apprehended in a sweep that
netted alleged terrorists in England. We had an assault on the
Turkish embassy that involved hostage-taking. We’ve had firebombings
and other violent acts against religious schools, synagogues and
mosques. We were also the staging ground for a would-be terrorist
who, working with others, intended to bomb the Los Angeles airport, a
plot foiled at the Washington-British Columbia border by an alert
U.S. agent.

At home and abroad, terrorism has changed the world, and Canada has
no choice but to change with it. That means taking terrorism
seriously here and overseas, and recognizing sadly that it will be a
threat for a very long time.

Countries with the wherewithal should contribute to providing
economic and political help to areas where poverty, unemployment and
social dislocation can lead to the alienation that breeds terror. But
only the naive believe that poverty equals terror, instead of also
being fostered by warped religious beliefs, ethnic hatreds and
perverted education systems.

Just this week, The New York Times published a scary story about
young Muslims in Western Europe who are better off than in their home
countries, yet are being recruited by jihad and the sick siren songs
of martyrdom.

Canada isn’t apart from currents swirling around the world. That’s
why the Martin government deserves credit for yesterday’s publication
of an integrated national security policy. Does it answer all the
questions that need answering? No. But it’s a good start.

Before and after becoming Prime Minister, Paul Martin said that
Canada needed better co-ordination and expertise in domestic security
– both security against terrorism, and public-health threats and
emergency planning. So he created a Department of Public Safety,
appointed a minister of state for public health, selected a national
security adviser, established a cabinet committee on security, public
health and emergencies, and upped the budgets for national security.

Now, with yesterday’s announcement, more will be done, especially in
the areas of introducing biometrics on passports, heightening
maritime and port security, and monitoring the Canada-U.S. border.
Ottawa will gather all information about possible threats and sift it
through a new Integrated Threat Assessment Centre. It’s one thing to
get information; it’s another to analyze it centrally, a weakness
revealed recently in the United States. A group of outside security
experts will advise the government.

Many things remain to be done. After all, this policy was put
together in time for release before Mr. Martin’s trip to Washington
tomorrow and Friday. The government hopes this security policy, and
the recent announcement of recycled and new spending on defence, will
reassure the Americans that Canada is getting more serious about
continental security and good bilateral relations.

The policy document alluded to reforming refugee determination, but
that area is a political minefield full of multicultural groups,
Liberal voters and refugee-advocates – few of whom realize what a
joke this country’s procedures have become, especially our inability
to weed out economic migrants from genuine refugees, and to expedite

The government recognizes that it needs to work on plans to protect
the country’s critical infrastructure and computer systems. By law,
Parliament must review the anti-terrorism legislation before the end
of the year.

The often hesitant Martin government has done well in this area of
national security. It deserves congratulations for the work done so
far, and encouragement for what must yet be accomplished.

Correction: The Conservatives did not vote as a bloc in favour of the
Armenian genocide-recognition resolution. A minority of them opposed
the motion in a free vote.