by Eddie Ameh in Ottawa 

Security and media experts are questioning the decision of police to grant journalists access to the personal belongings of the San Bernardino shooters. 

Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, a married couple, opened fire at a staff holiday party at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California killing 14 people and injuring 21 others. Authorities later said the attacks were terrorist related. 

A few days later, reporters had access to the couple’s apartment and personal items such as photographs, passports, ID cards and social security cards. Identity cards of family members who were not linked to the attacks were also shown on live television. 

Police to blame? 

“I don’t understand why the place was not secured better and all that material taken away as potential evidence,” says Dane Rowlands, a security expert and the head of Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“This was inappropriate for the authorities to have allowed to happen.”[/quote]

Rowlands says whether there was evidence or not, that was a crime scene and those items should have been taken away and not made available to journalists. 

“This was inappropriate for the authorities to have allowed to happen,” he says. “I can’t imagine any motivation to have allowed them to do so except having made a mistake on this.” 

MSNBC, one for the television outlets that showed a live feed from the apartment, said it was cleared by the FBI, but the LA Times also reported the San Bernardino police saying the apartment was still an active crime scene.  

Reporters said the landlord, Doyle Miller, allowed them in, but he told CBS he was rushed. He later clarified the reporters were given permission to enter.  

Journalists took advantage 

Paul Adams, a journalism professor at Carleton University, says the journalists benefitted from the police officers’ inability to protect a crime scene. 

“The issue of going into the apartment has to do more with the police maintaining a crime scene than it is to do with any journalistic ethics,” Adams says. “If you have access, it’s part of the story and I think it’s appropriate to tell that story.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“I believe the journalists were well within their rights to show whatever information was available."[/quote]

Concerns have been raised about the ethics in showing details of personal information of family members who were not linked to the shooting at all. 

For example, MSNBC showed close up shots of personal identity cards belonging to Farook’s mother. 

Canadian media expert and head of strategic communications at Earnscliffe Strategy Group in Ottawa, Elly Alboim, says showing details of personal information of others, especially those who are not directly linked to the attacks, infringes on their personal rights. 

“It’s a clear violation of privacy and not appropriate,” he says. 

Alboim adds journalists should know better, but that they get carried away by the heat of the moment to publish everything they have access to. 

Sandy Johnson, president of the American-based National Press Foundation, says journalists are within their right to show and give any details they want to give out.  

“I believe the journalists were well within their rights to show whatever information was available, whether it was from this particular apartment or whether it was from the scene of the shooting,” she says. 

Advice for media 

However, Johnson notes, the prevalence of reporting through social media can put pressure on journalists to share information without going through normal editing processes. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“The tendency to jump [to] conclusions that every attack is a terrorist attack is problematic."[/quote]

“I believe publishing information should go through an editing level because an editor can have influence and walk the reporter through the process,” she says. “That’s an age old tradition.” 

Rowlands says despite the probability of terrorism being quite low compared to other risks, the threat of it is overplayed in the media. This leads to a public reaction that does not reflect the risk. 

He cautions journalists to be wary of how they report such issues. 

“The tendency to jump [to] conclusions that every attack is a terrorist attack is problematic in terms of potential deflection of the public debate towards issues that are overplayed already,” he says. “This is something responsible journalists should be paying attention to.”

{module NCM Blurb} 

Published in Top Stories

by Mark A. Cadiz in Toronto

Four million Syrians have fled their country and millions more are living in dire conditions in refugee camps. But very soon, a tiny fraction of them will be calling Canada home.

This week, the Canadian government will begin resettling refugees throughout the country, with priority given to those identified as the most vulnerable. This includes women at risk and complete families — most coming from Lebanon, Jordan and eventually Turkey.

One family that will set foot on Canadian soil in the coming days is Mahmoud Hussein Maree, 37, his wife Radiyah, 39, and four sons Hussain, 19, Mohammad, 18, Ahmad, 15, and Abdel Hamid, 5. They fled their home in Syria three years ago and have been living in Lebanon ever since.

The family’s life in Lebanon

“I decided to leave because I was afraid for the country. I was afraid for my children,” Maree says through a local interpreter. “And Lebanon was the closest to Syria."

Originally from Aleppo, one of the cities hardest hit by the civil war, Maree left everything behind — his home, his business, his sister — and took his wife and children to Lebanon. 

"I left with the clothes that were on me. I do not know what happened to my house or my clothes shop," he explains. "Now we have relatives in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. When we first left Syria we did not have any relatives in these places, but now we do."

Lebanon has now been pushed to its limits after the influx of Syrian refugees. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) there are approximately 1.4 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“I decided to leave because I was afraid for the country."[/quote]

The country has absorbed the refugees but not without experiencing economic, political and social repercussions. Tensions are high and the economy and its resources strained.

Maree and his family, registered by the UNHCR as refugees over a year ago, are in the final stages of the screening process with Canadian officials and are supposed to leave for Canada this week, he says.

However, like many, Maree is unaware of where he will be staying in Canada or what steps will follow after his arrival.

“I don’t know, they haven’t told me. But I am very happy to go to Canada. I am going with the Canadian people because they are helping Syrians,” he says.

Screening process for refugees

Of the 10,000 refugees coming to Canada this year, roughly 80 per cent of them will be privately sponsored refugees. This means sponsors are responsible for the financial needs, accommodation, clothing and food for the first year of a family’s resettlement into Canada. 

The remaining 2,000 will be government-assisted refugees.

Despite security concerns and varied responses among Canadians, the reaction towards refugees has been positive overall.

Peter Goodspeed, spokesperson for the Toronto-based resettlement organization Lifeline Syria, says that anybody coming to Canada as a sponsored refugee will be scrutinized more heavily than anyone else entering the country.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"I am going with the Canadian people because they are helping Syrians."[/quote]

“It’s pretty extensive,” he explains. “A refugee will be screened and registered by UNHCR first, then referred to Canada. They won’t refer any case to Canada if they think there is any remote possibility that there might be a security problem.”

Canadian immigration officers will have face-to-face interviews with the refugees and decide whether to continue with the process. If approved, the case goes forward for three separate security screenings with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the RCMP and Canadian Border Services.

Once refugees have passed all necessary checks, a doctor will perform medical examinations on-location and give them visas to come to Canada. At this point, they will immediately become permanent residents.

According to the Government of Canada, refugees will then be welcomed by Border Services and a final verification of identity will be completed at the point of arrival in Canada. 

The family’s imminent arrival in Canada

At the time we spoke with Maree in Lebanon, he didn’t know too much about Canada. From what he’s heard, “Canadians were down to earth people.” This was enough for Maree when he was faced with the decision to either apply to the U.S. or Canada.  

It’s been a long wait for the family, but their application has recently been fast-tracked by the Canadian government.

“It was very excellent (the refugee process). It was not difficult for me Alhamdullilah (Praise be to God). They (UNHCR) contacted me and I went to the interviews — about five of them. I have not kept count. I have another interview on December 8th and then we will be travelling to Canada,” he says.

Maree will leave behind his extended family in Syria and other family members scattered throughout Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey who are also refugees.

“I am indebted to the Canadian people because they want to help the Syrian people. I am very, very happy,” Maree says.  

As of Dec. 3, 1,341 refugees have been issued permanent residence, but have yet to arrive. Another 9,694 are currently being processed according to the Government of Canada.

Photo Credit: UNHCR

{module NCM Blurb}

Published in Top Stories
Tuesday, 24 November 2015 23:34

Govt Scales Back Year-End Refugee Target

by Leah Bjornson in Vancouver

The Canadian government announced their plan today to bring 10,000 Syrian refugees to the country by the end of the year, with an additional 15,000 to follow in January and February of 2016. The Ministers of Health, Immigration and Defence assured Canadians at a news conference this afternoon that medical and security screening would be performed overseas, in advance of their arrival in Canada. 

This number is short of the Liberal’s original year-end goal of 25,000, but members of the ad-hoc committee on refugees emphasized that proper screening processes and comprehensive resettlement plans must be in place to meet this influx.

“Yes we want to bring them fast, but we also want to do it right,” John McCallum, Minister of Immigration explained.

“When we welcome our newcomer friends with a smile, a smile alone is not sufficient,” he continued. “We want them to have a roof over their heads, we want them to have the right supports for language training and all the other things they need to begin their life here in Canada.”

Jane Philpott, chair of the ad-hoc committee on refugees and Minister of Health, told those in attendance that the government plans to identify all 25,000 Syrians to be resettled by the end of December and will prioritize those who are the most vulnerable.

Those resettled will include a mix of both private and government-assisted refugees, but only 2,000 of the end-of-year target will be government sponsored.

In order to keep their original promise of bringing 25,000 government-assisted refugees, McCallum said that the government will continue to sponsor and accept refugees beyond February, 2016.

The price tag on the Liberal program has now been pegged at up to $678 million over the next six years, but government representatives say this is “largely new money.” The Liberal platform only originally designated $250 million for the resettlement program.

Safety of Canadians

While the Liberal’s original year-end target was commended by refugee advocates, many experts also cautioned the government against bringing approximately 5,000 refugees a week for the next five weeks to the country without a comprehensive resettlement plan.

Approximately 54 per cent of Canadians echoed these concerns, according to recent polls, raising concerns over whether this tight timeline would allow for proper screening processes to take place.

The government responded to these concerns today with an announcement that full medical exams and security screenings will be completed overseas for all refugees. Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety, emphasized that they will be checking the identification of all prospective refugees at every stage of the process to ensure the safety of Canadians.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]... full medical exams and security screenings will be completed overseas for all refugees[/quote]

Refugees must also be registered with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Turkish government before being processed by Canadian officials.

“We will meet the humanitarian imperative before us, and we will do so properly so all Canadians can be both proud and confident about what we’ve accomplished together,” commented Goodale.

Last week, information surfaced that the government will be narrowing its criteria for Syrian refugees to Canada. It will only be accepting women, children and families; single men seeking asylum may be sponsored privately, but will otherwise not be approved unless they are accompanying their parents or are members of the gay community.

When asked whether the recent attacks in Paris on November 13 that killed 130 were at all responsible for this delayed deadline, McCallum said, No.

“It’s a logistic challenge that is extremely important in order to coordinate these things with our partners and other levels of the government,” he said. “It’s good to have a little more time.”

Resettlement in Canada

As to where refugees will be housed after they initially land in Canada, McCallum explained that there are 36 destination cities that already have the capacity to receive the refugees and provide them with the proper services to integrate them into Canadian society.

According to the Minister of Defence, Harjit Sajjan, there also exists temporary lodging for approximately 6,000 refugees at military bases, if necessary.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]... there also exists temporary lodging for approximately 6,000 refugees at military bases, if necessary.[/quote]

Over the previous six weeks, Canadian authorities in Lebanon have managed to screen about 100 people a day. This makes for a total of 4,000 asylum seekers in the past month and a half.

Since the Liberal government was sworn-in on November 4, only 102 Syrian refugees have arrived in Canada. Approximately 3,000 Syrian refugees had previously arrived under the former Conservative government, but this number does not count against the 25,000 total.

Moving forward, the government expects to receive as many as 900 refugees a day, most of whom will arrive at airports in Toronto and Montreal. A majority will be brought to Canada by private planes, although military aircraft will be used if necessary.

{module NCM Blurb}

Published in Top Stories

Canada has announced an additional P128 million (C$3>58 million) of security assistance to the Philippines to further support the Bangsamoro peace process and address regional and global security threats.

Canada will deploy additional Canadian police officers to chair the Independent Commission on Policing for the Bangsamoro to provide strategic advice on the development of policing options for the Bangsamoro under the National Police.

This was made following its deployment of Randy Beck, former assistant commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“These police support projects will further strengthen relations and connections between Canadian and Filipino law authorities facilitating cooperation and information sharing on transnational organized crime, which is expected to improve safety conditions in Canada and the Philippines.” - Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines Neil Reeder[/quote]

Canada will also provide training to Filipino police officers to address transnational organized crime, including major case management, evidence handling and interview techniques.

These projects, valued at P54 million, are funded by Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs’ Trade and Development’s Anti-Crime Capacity-Building Program and Global Peace and Security Fund.

“These police support projects will further strengthen relations and connections between Canadian and Filipino law authorities facilitating cooperation and information sharing on transnational organized crime, which is expected to improve safety conditions in Canada and the Philippines,” Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines Neil Reeder said.

“This additional commitment from the Canadian government was announced during the meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Aquino held in Ottawa last month, and we are committed to working with trusted allies and partners to address international security issues,” he added.

Future Initiatives 

Two other security-related projects were announced during President Aquino’s state visit to Canada.

Announced were the capacity-building for port and maritime security in the Philippines project worth P41 million and the counter-improvised explosives devices training that will cost P33 million.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Canada will work with Filipino officials to build tactical and operational relationships.[/quote]

Funded by the Canadian government’s Counter-Terrorism Capacity Building Program, the three-year project to be implemented by the International Police Organization (Interpol), is part of an ongoing effort to address the threats of piracy, terrorism and organized crime to maritime security in Southeast Asia.

The project will seek to enhance front-line law-enforcement institutional capacity by strengthening the ability of the Philippines to gather, collect, analyze and share essential law-enforcement data. This will help ensure that the Philippines can provide more information to Interpol’s database, thus benefiting other countries in their efforts to counter terrorism worldwide.

The three-year counter-improvised explosive devices training, led by Canada’s Department of National Defence (DND) with the Canadian Armed Forces’ Joint Counter Explosive Threat Task Force as implementing partner, looks to increase Counter-Improvised Explosive Devices (C-IED) institutionalization in the Philippines and increase the survivability of C-IED first responders.

As part of this project, Canada will work with Filipino officials to build tactical and operational relationships. DND will undertake subject matter expert exchanges and exercises to assess current C-IED capabilities with a view to developing detailed project plans. Canada will also provide training sessions focused on building individual technical skills, as well as training a cadre of trainers so that C-IED programs remain sustainable.

Published in Partnership with The Filipino Post.

Published in The Philippines

by Graham Hudson in Toronto

The Conservative government tabled the Anti-Terrorism Act 2015 – the latest in a string of legislative amendments aimed at protecting Canadian national security – this past Friday. The Act includes amendments to a suite of existing statutes, including the Criminal Code and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act. If passed, the incitement or promotion of terrorism (particularly through the internet) will be criminalized, while Canadian intelligence agencies will be encouraged to share information more frequently and freely, both with each other and with foreign partners.

Recent parliamentary debates concerning similar legislation provide a glimpse into the impetus behind the Act. On the same day as the Act was tabled before Parliament, the CPC’s LaVar Payne said that the government’s security agenda has been pushed to the forefront by the, “international jihadist movement.” Linking this movement to the October attacks in Ottawa and Quebec, he appealed to Parliament to prevent terrorists from bringing, “their barbaric, violent ideology to our shores.”

These words indicate a concern, not simply about the migration of people, but of ideas. Measures prohibiting the incitement or promotion of terrorism reflect the reality that, in the information age, terrorists are better capable of transmitting ideas and influence across borders. Methods enhancing domestic and international information-sharing are intended to better equip our police and security intelligence agencies to project counter-influences within and beyond our borders; as terrorists become more fluid, sophisticated, and transnational, so too must our security agencies.

While in this sense it is timely, the Act reflects a mindset that is timeless.

History repeating itself 

Fear of foreign or external threats slipping past our borders and subverting from within is a recurring theme in the history of Canadian national security. The internment of Japanese-Canadians – many of whom were Canadian citizens – during World War II was justified on the dubious grounds that they were engaging in subversive, “fifth-column” activity. Similarly, the attacks on 9/11 contributed to the implementation of deterrent measures aimed at strengthening border control and reducing irregular migration. These measures were augmented again in 2012, shortly following the irregular arrival of Tamil asylum seekers aboard the MVs Sun Sea and Ocean Lady and unsubstantiated claims that the vessels were carrying terrorists.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]By blurring boundaries between external and internal threats, [The Anti-Terrorism Act 2015] may have a disproportionately adverse effect on migrant communities.[/quote]

The Anti-Terrorism Act 2015 is part of this broader historical process. By blurring boundaries between external and internal threats, it may have a disproportionately adverse effect on migrant communities. This, in turn, may have the unintended consequence of harming relationships, particularly when it comes to trust and cooperation, between these communities and the government, ultimately reducing the effectiveness of broader counter-terrorism laws, policies and practices.

The proposed advocacy or promotion of terrorism offence, for instance, will have a “chilling effect” on the communication of political and religious ideas within the Muslim community. While at first glance it may be seen as a net gain from the government’s perspective, fear of being associated with criminal activity may discourage community members from talking to each other about the issue of radicalization, interacting with high-risk persons in an effort to counter radicalization, or reporting information to police.  This will negatively impact the internal social dynamics of communities, including the viability of community-based programs, self-regulation and other means of “collective efficacy” that have been shown to help counter radicalization and facilitate integration into broader social networks.

Legislation's downside 

Like trying to hold water, the tighter one tries to grip ideas, the more they slip between one’s fingers. What about new laws facilitating the freer flow of security intelligence and other information?

On the whole, Canadian security intelligence agencies have done an excellent job protecting Canadian security since 9/11. They have done so on the strength of traditional intelligence arrangements (e.g. with the U.S., UK, Australia, New Zealand), as well as by learning to work with relatively new partners (e.g. Morocco, Syria) and technologies. They have been especially active in the context of migration and border control, playing a pivotal role in the screening and removal of migrants who have (allegedly) engaged in terrorist and other serious criminal activity.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The free exchange of security intelligence has led to several cases of serious human rights abuse in the context of migration. Perhaps, the most prominent example would be the extraordinary rendition of Maher Arar.[/quote]

Unfortunately, the free exchange of security intelligence has led to several cases of serious human rights abuse in the context of migration. Perhaps, the most prominent example would be the extraordinary rendition of Maher Arar – a Syrian-born Canadian citizen who was forcibly sent to Syria, where he was subjected to torture for approximately one year. Other similar cases include Abdullah Almaki, Ahmad El Maati, Muayyed Nurredin, and more recently, Sathyapavan “Sathi” Aseervatham.

In 2006, a Commission of Inquiry concluded that the extraordinary rendition of Arar was caused in large part by the under-regulated, international exchange of intelligence and other information. It stated that the integrity of our immigration and refugee system depends on more adequate oversight and review of security agencies. Thus far, parliament has not adequately implemented its recommendations, although there has been some movement within certain quarters of the intelligence community as well as within the Federal and Supreme Courts.

When placed in this historical and institutional context, the information sharing measures in the Anti-Terrorism Act 2015 may further erode already fragile mechanisms for protecting the human rights of asylum seekers in Canada. It will also contribute to the increasing practice of labeling foreign nationals and permanent residents inadmissible to Canada. Finally, it will contribute to the denial of passports to perceived security threats and the revocation of Canadian citizenship from dual citizens, both pursuant to procedures that may infringe several Charter rights. It will be up to members of the intelligence community and judiciary to ensure that new powers are exercised in accordance with the rule of law.

Controlling ideas, not people

Above all else, the Anti-Terrorism Act 2015 is about the control of ideas. On the one hand, it aims to limit the transmission of ideas within migrant communities. On the other, it facilitates the control of migrant populations through the sharing of security intelligence and other information. In this sense, it indirectly helps solidify the control of geographical and ideological borders.

Will the Act make us more secure? Security is at once both a state of mind and a state of affairs. It is best when the two align, but sometimes the desire to make ourselves feel secure can actually make us less safe. I am concerned that the latest string of legislative changes belies a deep-rooted insecurity about our capacity to control borders. Frequent, rushed changes to legislation provide quick answers and the sense that something is being done. But true, material security depends on relationships of trust among our police, intelligence agencies and (migrant) communities. We don’t need, and we simply can’t afford, laws that threaten to fragment these relationships.

Graham Hudson is an associate professor and undergraduate program director in the department of criminology at Ryerson University. He is a participant in the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society. His research focuses on the intersection of national security, human rights and irregular migration.

{module NCM Blurb} 

Published in Commentary
Saturday, 19 January 2013 22:35

"We are Canadian, too," say Somali-Canadians

Montreal − A new study published by the Institute for Research on Public Policy challenges the perception that the Somali Canadian community has failed to integrate into the wider society. Instead, its author finds that many young Somali Canadians have a strong attachment to Canada that is often accompanied by identification with Islam and with Somalia.

In her study “I Am Canadian: Challenging Stereotypes about Young Somali Canadians,” Rima Berns-McGown also reports that her in-depth interviews with young Somali Canadians demonstrated no widespread or significant support for the al-Shabaab movement in southern Somalia or any other organization that might threaten the public safety of Canadians.

Berns-McGown, who teaches diaspora studies at the University of Toronto, highlights some of the significant roadblocks young Somali Canadians often encounter, including the trauma that they and/or their families experienced in Somalia before leaving, racism in school and on the part of the police, and negative media coverage.

According to Berns-McGown, “social cohesion would be much better served if we addressed the specific challenges Somali Canadians continue to face, rather than stigmatizing the community and contributing to the criminalization of its youth.”

To that end, the author offers a number of proposals for school boards, law enforcement agencies, federal and provincial governments, and the media, such as targeted support for Somali Canadian youth and ways to address institutional barriers and stereotyping. “These measures could enhance Somali Canadians’ inclusion in the wider society and foster a balanced approach to public safety issues,” concludes Berns-McGown.

This study challenges the perceptions that the Somali Canadian community has failed to an unusual degree to integrate into the wider society. That this is the fault of the community itself and that this supposed failure represents a threat to Canadian security because of suggestions that some Somali Canadian youth have been lured to the radical extremism of the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab movement in southern Somalia, and because some have become involved in drug trafficking and street violence.

Drawing on her previous research and some 40 in-depth interviews with young Somali Canadians, Berns-McGown finds that most of these youth self-identify as Canadian and want very much to be a part of this country, which they see as their home. They also, and not in contradiction, feel strongly Muslim and Somali. Extensive quotations from the interviews provide insights about these multiple identities. To the extent that integration involves the identification of newcomers with their adopted home, most of these young Somalis appear to be integrating well.

But integration is a two-way street: it entails the willingness of new Canadians to embrace their new home and — equally significantly — the willingness of the wider society to lower the barriers to their becoming active and productive members of their adopted home. And in that regard, many young Somali Canadians encounter significant roadblocks that are not conducive to integration or social cohesion. These include systematic, institutional racism on the part of schools, police and intelligence agencies, and the media. In light of the significant challenges the Somali Canadian community has faced, the author’s assessment is that its achievements have been quite extraordinary.

Berns-McGown found no widespread or significant support for al-Shabaab or any other organization that threatens the public safety of Canadians, and she maintains that characterizations of the community as disengaged and a security threat are unwarranted and deeply problematic.

[“I Am Canadian: Challenging Stereotypes about Young Somali Canadians” by Rima Berns-McGown can be viewed at the Institute’s Web site (]

Published in National

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