An immigration expert says the student visa process in Canada is “pretty easy.”
“If that was my goal, to come into Canada and either stay illegally, work illegally, or yes, become a terrorist, I would probably apply for a student visa,” says Arne Kislenko, a professor at Ryerson University and the University of Toronto who specializes in immigration and national security.
We told you earlier this week that a 33-year-old Pakistani man is accused of plotting to bomb the U.S. Consulate in Toronto and other buildings in the Financial District. The federal government is trying to get him deported.
Jahanzeb Malik first came to Canada in 2004 on a student visa to study at York University.
Is it possible for a terrorist to enter Canada while posing as a student? Sure. Just as it’s possible for a terrorist to enter Canada posing as a foreign spouse, temporary foreign worker or a tourist. The point is, there are criteria that must be met by all classes of immigrant and it’s a mistake to believe that entering as a student is “easier” than any of the other categories. It all depends on your situation and your bona fides.
Besides, I’m uncertain as to how the above case indicates that student visas are a particular problem. Malik came to Canada 11 years ago on a student visa and eventually achieved permanent residency. 11 years is a long time to sit around waiting to put your terror plans into action. Chances are, Malik became radicalized while in Canada. The people who authorized his student visa over a decade ago didn’t let him slip through the cracks.
Canada accepts over 200 thousand students every year, plus 30 million visitors. Any of these people could mean to do us harm, but we do our best to weed them out. It’s a gamble we need to take, as immigrants and visitors are important for our culture and economy.
No country can be 100% secure without closing its border down completely. Since that is never going to happen here, we just have to take our chances while limiting the risks as best we can.
Klaudios Mustakas is a former senior manager with the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). He has 37 years of federal government service, including international diplomatic assignments in the United States and the Middle East. He retired as Chief, Enforcement (CBSA) in December, 2010.