Ministers defend new border alert
By SHAWN MCCARTHY AND ESTANISLAO OZIEWICZ, The Globe and Mail
Thursday, September 20, 2001
OTTAWA, TORONTO -- Government ministers responsible for Canada's border guards say new guidelines that highlight certain groups for tougher questioning help identify possible terrorists but are not a form of ethnic or religious profiling.
"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that the risk is higher now," said Revenue Minister Martin Cauchon, who is responsible for the 2,500 customs officers at Canada's points of entry.
"So, at this point in time, we don't have any way out but to use all the tools at our disposal. . . . As far as I'm concerned, we're not targeting specific people. What we're doing is we are working based on risk assessment."
Mr. Cauchon and Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan were responding yesterday to questions arising from a Globe and Mail story about a directive to border guards asking them to pay close attention to people who have spent time in Pakistan, Afghanistan or 14 other countries regarded as "zones of conflict or terrorist training centres."
The front-page story -- based on a document marked Protected, Canadian Eyes Only, For Official Eyes Only -- led dozens of people to call or write The Globe yesterday to accuse the newspaper of helping terrorists. "You have given terrorists a road map of what not to be and what not to say to officials as they try to enter Canada," one wrote.
A Globe editorial today defends the story, arguing that although the guidelines seem reasonable, the public should know about any form of singling out. Timid journalism "would be a self-inflicted wound to our democracy," the editorial says.
The guidelines indicate that men with links to certain Muslim countries and a scientific or aviation background should come under special scrutiny.
Ms. Caplan, in charge of Canada's 570 port-of-entry immigration officers, said: "I want to be really clear. We are doing our jobs. We are doing what Canadians expect us to do. There is no racial profiling, not by gender or religion. But we are on the job, we take advice from our partners in intelligence services as to the sorts of advice we should be giving our officers."
The bulletin to border guards is in two parts, the first listing "the employment/background characteristics that may identify terrorists" and the second listing "the travel routes and patterns that may identify Islamic terrorists."
Faisal Kutty, general counsel of the Canadian Muslim Civil Liberties Association, said yesterday that any profiling by community or group is objectionable.
"It would raise a lot of concerns in the Arab and Muslim communities," he said, adding that such profiling has occurred in the United States and while ineffective in rooting out terrorists, has led to harassment of certain ethnic groups.
"We don't want this to descend into a situation where it's dangerous to fly because you are Arab or Muslim."
Toronto lawyer Barbara Jackman, an advocate for immigrants and refugees, said the alert will make little difference in catching terrorists and is offensive because it will create problems for people who aren't legitimately of concern.