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Minister Wants New Act Passed

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OTTAWA — A new immigration law that’s lingering in the Senate contains the tools to tighten Canada’s borders and weed out potential terrorists, Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan says.

In her first statement since the U.S. terrorist attacks, Caplan pressed the Senate to pass Bill C-11, a long-awaited revamping of the Immigration Act.

“The protection of citizens of Canada is a priority, particularly security threats,” Caplan told the Commons yesterday. “We are all concerned and want to do everything we can to fight terrorism.”

The bill, which has been years in the works, is designed to improve security screening at the border and allow the government to deny serious criminals, and those deemed security risks or members of terrorist groups, from seeking refugee status. Currently, refugee claimants move freely in Canada for weeks before an in-depth security check is conducted. And not all claimants report back to authorities once they are allowed to enter Canada.

Canadian Alliance Leader Stockwell Day said the immigration bill and proposed anti-terrorist legislation do not go far enough in light of last week’s tragedy. He wants legislation that will identify alleged terrorist groups, “define them, publicly outlaw them and ban all fund-raising on their behalf.”

Caplan refused to respond to calls for Canada to harmonize its immigration and border policies with the U.S. She also declined to say whether she will ask her government for more money to beef up the number of immigration officers.