Security lessons of 9/11 still apply
by Candice Malcolm
September 9, 2015
Sometimes the best way to protect ourselves from global security threats is to stop particular people from ever entering our country.
The integrity of our immigration system goes hand in hand with our ongoing security efforts; immigration security is essential to keeping Canada safe.
This connection is self-evident, particularly as we reach the anniversary of the worst security breach in North American history.
Fourteen years ago today, on September 10, 2001, Mohammed Atta and Abdulaziz al-Omari drove a rented Nissan from Boston, Massachusetts to Portland, Maine.
They presumably went to sleepy Portland because they knew security would be too tight at Boston Logan airport.
The next day, they hijacked a plane and crashed it into the World Trade Center, acting in concert with other terrorists in similar attacks.
They killed thousands and changed the world forever.
The images that will soon flood the airwaves bring us back to that awful Tuesday morning 14 years ago, when 3,000 people were murdered by a poisonous religious doctrine filled with hatred.
That ideology still exists today, and we are still struggling to quash the ongoing threat of global terrorism — one that may never be completely eliminated.
The question remains, how do we protect ourselves from the kinds of people who kill in the name of jihad?
Plain-clothed terrorists, after all, look like everyday civilians.
Mohammed Atta, for example, had not violated a single U.S. immigration law until he hijacked a commercial airliner.
Six months after he committed his wicked crime, the U.S. immigration system notified a Florida flight school he had been approved for a student visa.
Had American immigration officials been equipped to do proper background checks, they would have noticed plenty of red flags.
Atta spent time in Afghanistan, attended al-Qaida training camps and was personally recruited by Osama bin Laden.
Drastic changes were made in the U.S.
Many can rightly argue the American reaction went too far in sacrificing rights, freedoms and privacy in the name of national security.
In Canada, we also made sweeping changes to our security system, but rather than building a clunky and often unaccountable security apparatus, Canada made targeted improvements to immigration security.
The most important of these changes may be the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, brought in by the Conservatives a decade after 9/11.
This law gave immigration officials the tools to know exactly who is coming into the country.
It cracked down on the schemes that permeated the immigration system, taking aim at fake travel documents and identity fraud while also enabling the government to remove unwanted individuals.
These reforms demonstrate Canada is serious about the threats it faces.
The world is very different than it was a decade and a half ago.
Here in Canada, we are stronger, more resilient and better prepared to meet the pressing security challenges at home and abroad.
As Jonathan Kay put it a few years ago in an essay for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, 9/11 changed Canada for the better.
Those tragic events and our response helped to transform “Canada into a more serious country, and one that plays a bolder and more helpful role on the world stage”, Kay said.
When it comes to immigration, we’ve continued to welcome record numbers each year, while being more careful about who we let in.
We’ve learned that we can have an open door policy, but we need to have walls, too.