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April 2001, Volume 8, Number 4

Canada: Terrorism, Quebec, Labor

Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan proposed major amendments to Canadian immigration law in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Terrorism. Montreal resident Ahmed Ressam went on trial in Los Angeles in March 2001; he is accused of trying to smuggle 130 pounds of explosive materials into the US on December 14, 1999 for the purpose of committing a terrorist act. Ressam is allegedly linked to a plot by Osama bin Laden to commit terrorism acts in the US during millennium celebrations. The US government will attempt to prove that Ressam is part of a militant Islamic organization, al-Qaeda, Arabic for "the Base," which is controlled and financed by bin Laden.

The trial is expected to prove embarrassing to the Canadian government, often accused of doing too little to detect and deport terrorists. Ressam went to Canada in February 1994 and applied for asylum, saying he was beaten and tortured by Algerian police. He abandoned his asylum application and lived in Montreal under a deportation order, but was not removed because no other country would take him. Three of the four men charged in the terrorism case are failed asylum applicants in Canada.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service issued a report on illegal immigration that blamed Quebec for not being diligent enough to detect false documents. Ressam used a fake Montreal student card, a forged Quebec baptismal certificate and $300 to obtain a Canadian passport in Montreal. If a person is born in Quebec, the federal government accepts a baptismal certificate as proof-of-birth identification, as long as the document was issued before January, 1, 1994.

The US says that Ressam is a member of a new type of terrorist organization, with a decentralized hierarchy that operates beyond the reach of traditional political and military sanctions, and with no permanent command center for authorities to attack. According to US officials, Canada may have become a haven for such terrorist groups.

The Federal Court of Canada in February 2001 ruled that women and children cannot be returned to countries where they face domestic violence. In one case, the court overturned the deportation of a woman who argued that her abusive husband would harm her and her children if she was returned to Korea. In another, the court ordered immigration officials to review a decision to send a battered child back to his father in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Quebec. The Quebec government, which received 32,000 immigrants in 2000, plans to increase immigration to 40,000 to 45,000 a year. In 2000, 16,427 immigrants were independents who qualified for admission on the points system, 8,052 were refugees, and 7,905 were family unification immigrants. Quebec plans to open immigration offices in Rabat, Morocco and Beirut, Lebanon. The Parti Quebecois government created a new secretary of state for the welcome and integration of immigrants, and named Andre Boulerice to fill it.

Labor. Home builders want the government to relax immigration restrictions so they can hire more skilled construction workers. In June 2000, an industry report, "Construction Labor Shortages in the Greater Toronto Area: Report and Recommendations of the Industry Working Group," urged "a three-year pilot project to expedite entry into Canada of 6,000 skilled laborers from abroad. If these workers subsequently become laid off, or can't find work, they will return to their home country." The government offered 200 workers a year.

Union Local 183 in Toronto, the largest construction local in North America with about 24,000 members, agrees that young Canadians often reject construction jobs, so that most skilled construction workers are 45 to 50 years old.


Stephanie Rubec, "No country wanted him," Toronto Sun, March 13, 2001. Josh Meyer, "Border Arrest Stirs Fear of Terrorist Cells in U.S," Los Angeles Times, March 11, 2001. Jack Kohane, "Booming housing demand in Ottawa, Toronto requires relaxed immigration rules, says industry coalition," Ottawa Citizen, March 10, 2001. Janice Tibbetts, "Recent rulings show refusal to deport women, children at risk of domestic violence," Ottawa Citizen, March 4, 2001.