The Militant (logo) 
Vol.64/No.2      January 17, 2000 
'Anti-terrorist' raids target democratic rights  
{front page} 
MONTREAL--The police here have announced that they are on a mobilization footing against "Algerian terrorism" in the wake of the arrest December 14 in Washington state of an Algerian, Ahmed Ressam, as he was driving his car across the border from Canada. Authorities claim Ressam possessed materials that could be made into a bomb. Two days later police here said they had dismantled a network of thieves whose crimes served to finance Algerian terrorist activities.

Police evacuated 400 people in the working-class neighborhood here after locating Ahmed Ressam's truck, claiming more bombs could be found. No explosives turned up however.

On December 19 Lucia Garofalo and her Algerian companion, Bouabide Chamchi, were arrested in Vermont after entering the United States from Canada. The press dropped all pretense of presumption of innocence and reported that "Garofalo led such a strange life that the FBI, the CIA, the RCMP, and Montreal police can't rule out that she is involved in terrorist activities."

The incident is being used by Ottawa to gain acceptance for broader use of its secret police, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), and intrusions into the rights of working people. In the midst of a media barrage and Y2K threats hype, the CSIS called for a law to crack down on so-called "terrorist fund-raising" by charitable organizations in Canada. CSIS director Ward Elcock said that 50 "terrorist" organizations have a presence in Canada and that 350 individuals are being tracked.

Leon Benoit, immigration spokesperson in Parliament for the opposition and rightist Reform Party, has called for tighter immigration restrictions by the Canadian government. Benoit called the current regulations "a sieve" that allows "terrorists and others into the country."

Washington is also stepping up pressure on Ottawa. The chairman of the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Lamar Smith, a Republican from Texas, told the media that the arrests in the state of Washington were "the best wake-up call" about the "porous shared border" between Canada and the United States.

An aide said Smith "has made it clear that he would like to work cooperatively with the Canadians but so far the response has not been encouraging."

The U.S. Justice Department has raised that Canada should start demanding visas from more people traveling from abroad

A number of voices are speaking up to defend democratic rights and against the anti-immigrant attacks. A prominent article in La Presse reported that an organization of Muslims held a press conference to respond to the "anti-terrorist" campaign being whipped up by Washington and Ottawa. Spokesperson Mostafa Ben Kirane denounced the moves as "hate propaganda being aimed at the whole Muslim community in Montreal."

Workers from the Middle East and of Arab origin at work sites around the city are also speaking out. A presser in a garment shop here who is Kurdish and a member of the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE) opposed the government moves by pointing out that since the beginning of the Kurdish movement for independence the Turkish government has labeled them terrorists.

The Canadian Arab Federation explained in a statement, "We are concerned with possible overreaction by authorities that could lead to a disregard for civil liberties. The Canadian Arab and Muslim community fears a repeat of the Gulf War experience when the community felt targeted and misrepresented."

The Communist League issued a statement explaining that "the anti-Arab, anti-Muslim chauvinist campaign is aimed at dividing working people. It is part and parcel of the efforts of the ruling billionaire capitalist families that run the governments in Washington, Ottawa, and other imperialist capitals to increase the use of police powers against working people." These attacks, the statement says, are part of "their response to the increasing resistance of working people to the growing disorder of world capitalism." The League is circulating the statement in factories and from street tables, and is demanding an end to cop harassment of Muslim working people by the government and its police forces.

Joanne Pritchard is a member of the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees.  
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home