(This column was published in the North Shore News on Dec. 22, 1999)

 

Gov't inaction on terrorism a disgrace

By Leo Knight

The Ministry of the Solicitor General is responsible for protecting Canadians and helping to maintain Canada as a peaceful and safe society.   -- Opening address on the Solicitor General of Canada's website.  

 

DOMINATING the headlines across the country in the past few days was the arrest of alleged Algerian terrorist Ahmed Ressam.

 

Unfortunately, his arrest in Port Angeles, Washington, by U.S. Customs officers after he arrived on a ferry trip from Victoria, simply serves to underline why the U.S. government doesn't trust this country and why our government's inaction has provided another international black eye.  

 

When he was arrested, his car was carrying over 45 kilograms of bomb-making materials, detonators and liquid nitroglycerin, material apparently only available on the black market.  

 

The arrest and explosives seizure has fueled fears in the U.S. of Y2K terrorist attacks. Especially considering the man Ressam was staying with at the 2400 Motel on Kingsway in Vancouver seems to have disappeared.  

 

The FBI and the CIA are spearheading the investigation into the man authorities claim is associated with Osama bin Laden, the wealthy Saudi Arabian the Americans have been chasing since the embassy bombings last year in Tanzania and Kenya.  

 

What's ridiculous in this case is that Ressam was still in this country after being rejected for refugee status because of connections to an Algerian-Islamic extremist organization.  

 

Indeed, a former roommate of his was Said Atmani, who was extradited from Canada to France for the 1996 Paris Metro bombings, which killed four people and injured dozens more.  

 

He's also done time in this country for theft of computers and assorted other high-priced stuff.  

 

According to the Montreal police, in whose city he was convicted in February of 1998, Ressam was part of an Algerian crime ring.  

 

Without confirming the information, law enforcement officials hint the crime ring was designed as a fund-raising arm for the terrorist activities.  

 

Again, why was he still here?  

 

Irony being what it is, the arrest of Ressam and the shameful information of his life in Canada and our failure to deal with him occurred in the same week as the solicitor general tabled the government's response to the annual report of the Special Senate Committee on Security and Intelligence.  

 

In the report to the House, Solicitor General Lawrence MacAulay said, "The government is now reviewing immigration and refugee policies with the aim of making them more responsive to Canada's needs and strengthening the means to enforce the government's policy direction."

 

He then goes on to itemize what he says the government has done to this end and concludes the portion with this piece of unadulterated BS: "These initiatives will further curb the ability of terrorist and terrorist supporters to use Canada as a base from which to conduct terrorist support or other criminal activities."  

 

In saying this, MacAulay pre-supposes we are currently doing anything effective to curb that ability.  

 

The committee's report was given to MacAulay in June, six months before Ressam's arrest.  

 

Its 32 recommendations include such gems as: "The committee recommends that the government of Canada continue to use all legitimate means to influence the United States' policy and actions to ensure a common approach and to further the two countries' cooperation and support for each other in the fight against terrorism."  

 

This is all a bad joke really.  

 

The government's response to the committee report was tabled last Thursday, two days after the arrest of Ressam.  

 

In a press release issued by MacAulay on Dec. 16, the solicitor general said, "Our security is something we can't take for granted. It depends on a strong security-intelligence capability, law enforcement readiness, and on international cooperation. This government is committed to moving on a number of issues identified by the committee."  

 

The press release continued with the following piece of literary largesse: "Mr. MacAulay said that the special Senate committee had praised the government for the positive change in the level of preparedness and professionalism in the security and intelligence community.  

 

"In the report, Senator Kelly noted that, 'There has been a positive change in the level of preparedness and professionalism in the security and intelligence community. Issues and concerns identified by previous committees have been, in the main, addressed.'"  

 

Hard to believe that whoever wrote that gets paid around $80,000 of your hard-earned dollars.  

 

It's nice to know that "issues and concerns have been, in the main, addressed."  

 

Let's have a quick peek back at just a snippet of the claptrap being force-fed by a succession of solicitors general of this Liberal government.  

 

April 11, 1994: "The primary threat to Canada is international terrorism and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) has been re-orienting its activities accordingly as the threat from traditional espionage declines, Solicitor General Herb Gray told the Commons today in delivering the annual statement on national security."  

 

Glad they recognized the problem way back then.  

 

I also found this little gem from the hapless Andy Scott, MacAulay's predecessor: "Canada is developing a range of tough measures against terrorists, Solicitor General Andy Scott today told the House of Commons in a statement on national security."  

 

That was on April 30, 1998, two months after Ressam was convicted in Montreal and after CSIS, the RCMP and Canadian Immigration had positively linked him to international terrorism.  

 

Yet somehow, he was still here conducting his nefarious activities until last week when he was arrested by American law enforcement.  

 

It remains to be seen how many more Ressams are currently operating in our country because of the ineffectiveness and incompetence of the federal government.  

 

Unfortunately, the information will probably come to us as a result of the FBI investigation and not our own government.  

 

What a disgrace!  

 

  -30-

 

 

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