Canadian officials have been badgering the United States for deporting Syrian Maher Arar from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport in October 2002. The Canadian government, however, is not entitled to display such moral outrage.
Mr. Arar was removed from the United States for alleged terrorist connections. Because he held both Canadian and Syrian citizenship, the U.S. authorities were well within their rights in sending him to Syria. Since Mr. Arar flew to New York from Tunisia, the United States could even have chosen to return him to that country. These are the normal procedures for the deportation of aliens who do not meet a country’s entry requirements; indeed, Canada’s immigration law has similar provisions. Before his removal, Mr. Arar was seen by a Canadian consular official and was allowed legal representation at his deportation hearing. This incident received considerable attention in Canada, with most stories high-lighting outrage that a Canadian citizen should be treated in such a manner. The fact that Mr. Arar was also a citizen of Syria was never taken into account.
Arar’s suspected terrorist connections appear to have been ignored by the Canadian media and neglected by government officials. During his recent visit to Canada, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell revealed that evidence linking Mr. Arar to Al Qaeda had been given by the FBI to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) soon after his removal from the United States. Obviously, the RCMP had not seen fit to pass this information on to Canadian foreign-affairs officials. The evident lack of information sharing by security agencies should be a cause for concern for all Canadians, particularly now that Osama bin Laden has placed Canada on Al Qaeda’s hit list. More seriously, however, the Arar case points to the indifference that has characterized Canada’s response to the War on Terror.
The United States has moved quickly to enact measures designed to help prevent terrorist attacks against her citizens. One such measure has been to require visitors to the United States who were born in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, and Syria to be photographed, fingerprinted, and registered, regardless of their current citizenship. This ensures that the U.S. government is able to screen and track aliens who may present a possible security risk.
The reaction of much of the Canadian media and many members of Parliament has bordered on hysteria. Instead of sympathizing with the legitimate concerns that underlie the new U.S. measures, Canada protested, claiming such procedures discriminated against certain Canadian citizens. Canada even took the extraordinary step of issuing a travel advisory telling Canadians born in the countries on the U.S. list to “consider carefully” whether to travel to the United States.
Dual or even multiple citizenship is permitted under Canadian law. Thousands of Canadians frequently travel on two passports, using whichever one is more convenient at the time. There can be advantages and disadvantages to this arrangement, as Mr. Arar has found out.
It only takes three years to acquire Canadian citizenship after becoming a landed immigrant. The rationale is that the sooner new immigrants can obtain citizenship, the sooner they can vote. This may be a commendable criterion for qualifying newcomers for participating in the Canadian political process, but it is not a guarantee against terrorist activity. There are at least three Canadian citizens now in custody who have been accused of active involvement in terrorist operations; one has been charged with killing an American soldier in a firefight in Afghanistan.
What many of my fellow Canadians fail to understand is that the United States has reason to be concerned about our government’s approach to terrorism and domestic security. Canada continues to allow thousands of young men from terrorist-producing countries to enter Canada as asylum seekers. Many are smuggled into the country without documents. Our foreign minister inexplicably refuses to admit that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, despite unequivocal evidence from our own security service that Hezbollah uses funds raised in Canada to buy weapons and other military equipment for its terrorist activities.
Pat Buchanan may have gone too far in describing Canada as the “Soviet Canuckistan,” but the United States has no reason to be confident that Canada has taken the terrorist threat seriously. The self-righteous sniping at the United States’ sensible efforts to prevent another horrific terrorist attack reflects Canada’s present state of denial that the terrorist threat is real.