August 09, 2005 08:00 ET


A top Canadian security analyst warns that Canadians' complacency and our lax immigration and refugee laws make Canada a perfect staging ground for radical extremist cells. Attention: Assignment Editor, News Editor, World News Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor, Transportation Editor TORONTO / ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Aug. 9, 2005) - Canada must wake up to the global threat of terrorism says one of Canada's top experts on security. Michael Cowan, Managing Partner of Business Risk International warns that the long outdated belief that Canada is still a minor player on the world stage and poses no threat, is a dangerous belief for Canadians to hold.

"The FBI, Germany's BKA (their equivalent of the FBI), Israel's Secret Service (the Mossad) and Britain's MI5 & MI6 (their domestic and foreign intelligence services) have all pointed to a 'Canadian connection' in recent terrorist attacks and the discovery of active terror cells", Cowan says.

"These respected agencies have done their homework and have repeatedly warned Canada about the things that make this country an ideal staging area for terrorist activities. They cite our flawed immigration policies, refugee claims that take years to process during which time there is virtually no control over the applicants, and foreign student visas which allow thousands of students to remain on Canadian soil long after the expiry of their visa and the end of their studies."

With more than 30 years of experience in policing and private sector intelligence gathering, Cowan advises Fortune 500 companies on security issues and has written extensively on the subject. He has conducted security assignments in West Africa, South Africa, Europe, the Middle East and South America.

The security expert warns that Canada's own intelligence service (CSIS) is reportedly still backlogged with checking airport employees holding restricted area passes to determine if they are entitled to possess such passes. Sadly, the procedures seems to be to issue the pass and then conduct the security check. "This means", says Cowan, "that even after 9/11, there are countless people, about which we know very little, who have access to sensitive areas of our airports and arriving and departing aircraft as well as baggage and airline food and water supplies. If you add to this the disappearance of a significant number of airport security uniforms, there has to be a serious concern with Canada's ports of entry".

Canada's Transport Minister recently announced that he will consider the possibility of a 'no-fly' list which was requested by the U.S. This list essentially names persons who are (or should be) prohibited from flying on a commercial aircraft. But there is reluctance to this idea from Ottawa and before such a list is compiled, the Privacy Commissioner must be consulted. In any event, Transport Minister Jean Lapierre says that a Canadian no-fly list would only include around 1,000 names. This is one of the steps that Transport Canada says is part of their program called 'Passenger Protect'. Cowan wonders what Canada has been doing to protect passengers for the last four years since 9/11.

Cowan says that the list, if it is ever developed, is too late in coming, will be hamstrung by Charter and Privacy issues and that the majority of the names on the list will most likely be passengers who have been involved in on-board incidents such as drunkenness, air rage and abusive behaviour towards cabin staff. While Lapierre says that Canadians are ready to accept security, "the pressing question", Cowan responds, "is when will the government be ready to provide it?".

As to Canadian business, Cowan says that many corporations do not have a dedicated security director. "In some cases, security is a second responsibility carried by the Operations Manager or the CFO. This means that the proper expertise is simply not there to ensure the safety of the people and the company's assets. The result is not only failure to provide a safe working environment for employees but also a failure to exercise due diligence". This, says Cowan, places those companies at serious risk, not only of a major interruption of business activities but also of litigation in the event of employee injury or worse.

"In countless office complexes, there are Canadian corporations working side by side with US businesses. This has to be taken into account as a risk factor" says Cowan. "Security managers have focused on information security and the eradication of employee theft. It is critical that they expand their remit to include pro active and reactive programs which will combat terrorist threats" he adds. "We are continually alarmed by companies who have finally taken the step of asking for outside help but when we assess their plans, we find that they have done little more than create a policy for dealing with theft, install a computer encryption program and develop a fire evacuation plan".

"It would almost appear that government is waiting for business and vice versa when it comes to combating the threat of terror. This 'you first' approach is extremely unproductive", says Cowan.

Business Risk International

Tel: (647) 225 2428


Contact Information

  • Michael Cowan, Managing Partner, BUSINESS RISK INTERNATIONAL
    Primary Phone: 647-225-2428
    Secondary Phone: 416-761-5628