A Canadian’s take on Pat Buchanan’s "Soviet Canuckistan"

By: Rachel Marsden


For once in my life, I actually agree with something Pat Buchanan has said. Not with everything he said, mind you, but on a very critical point.

Last week, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister, Bill Graham, issued a warning to all Canadians born in terrorism-sponsoring countries like Iraq, Iran, Libya, Sudan, and Syria. He cautioned that a trip to the USA by a Canadian citizen originally from any of these countries could mean an impromptu photo session at the border, and some perp-style fun with fingerprinting ink.

In response, Buchanan launched a verbal tirade against Canada last Friday during his MSNBC show, "Buchannan and Press". He called the country "Soviet Canuckistan" and a "safe haven for terrorists", while pointing out that Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien had done an "appalling" job of securing the country’s borders. On these counts, I couldn’t agree with Buchanan more. Where even a country like Australia has outlawed immigrants from 40 recognized terrorist groups, Canada has only taken similar action against seven of them: The Armed Islamic Group, The Salafist Group for Call and Combat, Al-Jihad, Vanguards of Conquest, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, Al-Ittihad al-Islam, and al-Qaeda. Members of at least 50 recognized terrorist groups are still operating within Canada’s borders.

The radical Lebanese-based group, Hezbollah, which is responsible for hundreds of bombing deaths and acts of terrorism, is not included on the list of banned groups. Why in the world not? Well, in a scene that looked like it was pulled from a Saturday Night Live skit, Foreign Affairs Minister Graham told Canada’s House of Commons that Canada cannot ban all members of Hezbollah because the group has a social wing that does good deeds in raising money for charity! Next we’ll be hearing that they’ve received a grant from the federal government to support them in continuing on with their "charitable deeds". And I suppose Graham also thinks that toy drives are what the Hell’s Angels are all about, too?

Some of the "charitable acts" for which Hezbollah is known include the 1985 hijacking of a US airliner and the murder of a US Navy sailor aboard the flight; the 1993 bombing of a US Marine barracks in Beirut; and the 1994 bombing of an Israeli cultural center in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Back in 1997, Hezbollah member and Saudi national Hani Abd Rahim al-Sayegh arrived in Canada and applied for refugee status. He was subsequently arrested and held as a suspect in a 1996 terrorist bombing that killed 19 soldiers and wounded 372 others at a US barracks in Saudi Arabia. The bomb was twice as large as the one that destroyed the Oklahoma Federal building in 1995. Al-Sayegh was extradited to the US in 1997, and was subsequently indicted by a grand jury in Virginia on 46 charges, including 19 counts of murder.

The flow of illegal and/or dangerous immigrants from Canada into the United States is far from a new problem. In a 1999 hearing of the Congressional Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims, Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) recognized that "Mexican nationals can enter Canada without visas, so it is often cheaper for them to fly to Canada and walk across the northern border than to have smugglers bring them across the southern border." He also pointed out that "one of the most dangerous threats to [US] national security is the risk of a terrorist crossing our northern border undetected. This happened in 1997 when Gazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer crossed the northern border and attempted to blow up the New York subway system. In this case, the terrorist was caught before the crime was carried out. Next time, we may not be so fortunate. Since 1995, there have been at least 13 other cases of terrorists crossing the border from Canada, two in Blaine, Washington alone."

At the same Congressional hearing, David Harris--Former Chief of Strategic Planning of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)--testified that "for about two decades, roughly a quarter of a million immigrants have entered Canada yearly, making the country the biggest recipient of immigrants, by proportion, in the western world. Every year, immigration adds another percent to the national population. However, the composition of immigration reflects a dramatic shift from the regional--many would say European-based--preferences of 40 years ago. Four decades ago, 80% of each year's immigrants were coming from relatively stable European regions. Today, and for some years now, 80% of our quarter-million annual immigration intake has been coming from Africa, the Middle East, Asia and other regions thought to include trouble spots."

In striving to be the most "tolerant" society on the planet, Canada has inadvertently built itself up to be a safe haven for terrorists. And until the situation changes, the US is right to be taking any precautions it can to safeguard its own borders. In view of the fact that the INS is currently in major disarray--with visas being issued to dead terrorists--it’s up to the frontline workers at US Customs to head off any potential threats.

But in defense of Canada, I do take issue with another statement Pat Buchanan made. To call Canadians "freeloaders" who mooch off the US defense budget is patently unfair. Note to Mr. Buchanan: Remember the four Canadian soldiers of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry who were killed on the ground in Afghanistan by American "friendly" (read: negligent) fire? Well, those brave men--God rest their souls--more than paid up our tab in full.