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Canada to Issue New Photo Identification Cards for Immigrants, Increase Powers of Immigration Officials
By Tom Cohen Associated Press Writer Published: Oct 12, 2001
TORONTO (AP) - Immigrants to Canada will get a new plastic photo ID card instead of papers that are easily forged, the government said Friday - the latest security measure since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. Immigration officials also will have broader powers to detain and deport anyone trying to enter the country illegally, Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan told a news conference at the border crossing at Niagara Falls.
The tighter immigration measures follow earlier announcements this week that Canada was spending $165 million to bolster security at airports, toughen anti-terrorism laws and crack down on immigration fraud in response to the attacks in New York and Washington.
Caplan said the new immigration card, called the Maple Leaf, will have fraud-proof technology including laser imprinting and a magnetic strip. She described it as tamper-proof and said she would recommend that it cost no more than a passport - $40.
New immigrants will begin receiving the card by June 2002, and all immigrants yet to gain full citizenship will have to apply for the new Maple Leaf card within five years, Caplan said.
Tightening immigration procedures is sensitive in Canada, which welcomes more than 200,000 newcomers a year under a policy to increase the population of 30 million to stimulate economic growth.
U.S. officials have criticized Canadian immigration and refugee laws as too lax, citing the case of Ahmed Ressam, a failed refugee applicant from Algeria, who was arrested in December 1999 while trying to cross the border into Washington state with explosives in the trunk of his car.
Ressam was convicted this year on charges of plotting to bomb Los Angeles International Airport during millennium celebrations.
Caplan said the measures announced Friday would let Canada maintain its open-door policy with greater security.
"We know that Canada was built by immigration," she said. "We need those people to come here and help us to build our country in the future. We want people who are peace-loving, willing to work to keep this country as great as it is."
In addition, her department will hire 300 more immigration and customs officials with authority to detain people for longer screening periods if they are considered security threats, she said.
"Given the heightened state of alert since Sept. 11, it is reasonable to expect an expanded but targeted use of detention for security reasons," she said.
Other measures announced this week include $60 million for airport security including fingerprint scanners at major entry points and more border guards.
Later Friday, the government was scheduled to announce increased spending for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The tightened security and increased spending come after years of budget cuts for the military and RCMP under successive governments headed by Prime Minister Jean Chretien's Liberal Party.
Canada's decision to contribute navy ships, special force fighters and transport planes to the U.S.-led military campaign against terrorism has increased concern that it could be targeted by future terrorist attacks.
-- Martin Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 12, 2001