Why was Jaser here?
Raed Jaser, left, appeared in Old City Hall court on April 23, 2013. (Pam Davies sketch)
What was Raed Jaser doing in Canada anyway?
Jaser, 35, of Toronto is one of two Muslim men — the other is Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, of Montreal — charged Monday with plotting to blow up a train trestle between Ontario and New York state, hopefully while a passenger train bound to Toronto from the U.S. was crossing.
The RCMP, CSIS and the FBI all claim the conspiracy was driven by al-Qaida.
Jaser is a Palestinian with citizenship in the United Arab Emirates, who lives in a Toronto suburb. Despite having lived here for two decades and having acquired permanent resident status, Jaser has never bothered to take out Canadian citizenship.
On top of never taking the time to acquire citizenship, Jaser has several criminal convictions in Canada, including threatening death and bodily harm in Newmarket, Ont. in 2000. For that incident (his last of three convictions), Jaser received a $1,000 fine and two years’ probation. He had previously been convicted in Brampton, Ont. in 1996 of fraud under $5,000, for which he received a conditional discharge, 24 months of probation and 50 hours of community service. The next year, he was found guilty of failing to comply with his probation conditions while in Scarborough, Ont. That time, Jaser received a time-served sentence of three days.
Sure, none of these offenses are big. But cumulatively, they should be enough to get a non-citizen deported. Until you become a citizen, if you commit crimes you should have to leave.
At the time these crimes occurred, of course, Canada under the Liberals was playing immigration and refugee patsy to the world. “Come on in,” our government seemed to be saying with its every action and statement. “We don’t care about your past. We’re not even all that concerned about your present.
Never mind if you made up your refugee tale of woe. Don’t worry if you commit crimes here, even serious ones, we intend to do next to nothing about it.”
In 2005, researchers estimated there were upwards of 30,000 newcomers in the country with outstanding deportation orders — and Ottawa was doing little to find them and expel them. Some had been convicted of assault, child molesting and armed robbery. The moment they left prison, they were supposed to be on planes back to their countries of origin.
But, if you can believe it, deportation worked on the honour system, even for violent criminals. If you had been ordered deported, you were expected to be good about it and see yourself out of the country. Armed guards seldom met anyone at the prison gates and escorted them to the airport.
Jaser (who it must be remembered has not yet been convicted of planning to explode a train bridge and derail a VIA train), should have been expelled from Canada, if not after the first or second conviction, then certainly after the third.
John Norris, Jaser’s lawyer, was incensed that police mentioned his non-citizenship at their news conference Monday. He accused police of trying to “demonize” Jaser. Norris added, “I can tell you that he … has lived here for 20 years and has very deep roots here.”
Maybe, but his roots aren’t deep enough to encourage him to take out citizenship or to refrain from (allegedly) plotting to blow up many innocent people.
With the old, loosey-goosey attitude — the politically correct, multicultural attitude — Canada used to have to immigration, Norris’ objections maybe make sense.
But his feigned outrage points out just why the current federal government is right to want to make citizenship matter again. Not only does it improve national identity, it adds to national security, too.