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OTTAWA - Elinor Caplan, the Minister of Immigration, is expected to unveil a new fraud-resistant immigrant identity card as part of a major announcement tomorrow on new anti-terrorism measures, sources say.
The ID card is being developed to replace an easily forged paper visa that has minimal security features and accounts for 25% of all Canadian documents used to enter the country illegally.
The measure is part of a $250-million package of domestic security initiatives approved yesterday by the Cabinet's 10-member national security committee.
Sources say other initiatives include additional training of airport security personnel and new money for explosives-detection equipment.
The security committee has also approved funding for 300 new Customs agents, police officers and immigration officials.
Ms. Caplan has for several months touted the need for a new immigrant ID card. The government has faced pressure to fast-track the card's introduction from the United States and from immigrants in Canada worried about fraud. Ms. Caplan received funding approval after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The existing immigrant travel card -- known as the IMM 1000, and required for re-entering the country -- is an easily copied paper document that has been widely abused and does not include either a photograph or fingerprint of the holder.
The new card could include a wealth of information, including a photograph, signature, nationality, sex, eye colour and immigrant category.
Cabinet ministers will announce the other initiatives at news conferences in Montreal and Toronto today.
David Collenette, Minister of Transport, will provide funding for additional training of the private security guards who screen passengers and bags at airports, sources say. He will also announce plans for a study of other measures that could reinforce airport security, and will provide extra money for explosives-detection systems, the sources say.
Mr. Collenette said on Sept. 25 that Transport Canada would buy "advanced explosives-detection systems" for use at "priority airports," but sources insisted today's announcement will be new money for more equipment.
The security committee has approved the hiring of 300 customs agents, police officers and immigration personnel to tighten screening at Canada's borders at a cost of another $30-million.
Martin Cauchon, the minister responsible for the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, is expected to announce moves to make it easier to collect information about travellers before they land in Canada. Legislation before the House of Commons would allow Customs agents access to airline information about passengers such as nationality, date of birth and where and how they bought their tickets.
A similar system in place in the United States runs the information through a computer that hunts for red flags, such as a ticket bought for cash, and alerts agents on the ground. Canadian law allows only the passengers' names to be shared without a warrant.
Lawrence MacAulay, the Solicitor-General, is expected to get more resources for the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
Randy White, an Alliance MP, called the money announced yesterday "too little, too late."
"A large school district gets more than that in this country," Mr. White said from his riding office in Langley, B.C.
The new measures come in advance of a package of anti-terrorism legislation to be unveiled on Monday. That legislation will make it a crime to participate in terrorist organizations, provide a definition of terrorism, give police new surveillance tools and create a new offence making it illegal to raise funds on behalf of terrorists.
John Manley, head of the Cabinet committee, told reporters the risk of a terrorist attack in Canada, though small, has likely increased since the country committed 2,000 troops to the U.S-led military coalition against Afghanistan's Taliban regime.
"We are certainly taking the risk seriously. Clearly, Canada is implicated in the actions against terrorism, as we would want to be, and therefore the relevant agencies and authorities are taking extra precautions to ensure that we are as safe as we can be from the risk of attack," he said.
"As I have said before, I don't think we consider ourselves to be a very symbolic attacking point."
RCMP, customs agents and Canadian intelligence officers have been on high alert since terrorist attacks destroyed New York's World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon.
Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda group this week declared a jihad, or holy war, against the United States and its allies for launching air strikes against the Taliban regime.
Ottawa has been reluctant to release a specific list of military objectives in its campaign against terrorism, other than to say the battle will be long and will not resemble conventional warfare.
Mr. Manley asked Canadians for patience.
"It will take undoubtedly many months, perhaps years, of continuing effort and continuing exchanges of information -- the kinds of steps we are introducing," he said. "I don't think there is a day that you can have a tickertape parade and say that we have won the war against terrorism. Every day that we carry on our lives and that people live in freedom in our society is another day of victory for us."
Mr. Manley said it is time Canadians resumed their regular lives.
"We can't live in a cave or hide under our beds while we wonder if something might happen," he said. "In fact, if we do that, the terrorists win. It's time for us to get about our business."
© Copyright 2001 National Post
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