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Ali Alarbah, a petroleum engineer from Libya who is studying ESL at the U of R talks about how international student visa process gets delays. Photo by Rafique Bhuiyan

Harper’s new anti-terror laws, which propose significant new powers for police and CSIS, have raised debate among Canadians about racial profiling.

 

Muslim people are afraid that the government agency will threaten their basic liberties, and that Muslims in Canada will be unfairly profiled simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

 

“Because this anti-terrorism law comes out after the events in the fall, they are connected with Islam, clearly all anti-terrorism laws are aiming at Islamic-type things, even though they don’t mention it,” said Volker Greifenhagen, professor of religious studies and dean of Luther College at the University of Regina.

 

“The problem, though, is it will lead, I am pretty sure, to profiling of people who are Muslims especially if they are traditional Muslims. It will impact on certain people; especially Muslim people, visible Muslims or people who look like Muslims or people who are brown-skinned,” Greifenhagen added.

 

Under existing legislation, police can make preventative arrests and hold suspects for up to three days without pressing charges. The proposed Bill C-51 would allow authorities to hold suspects for up to seven days.

 

CSIS agents will be legally allowed to do is to seek a warrant to break into someone’s home, seize and copy documents, “install, maintain or remove any thing” (presumably a monitoring device), or do anything else a judge agrees is reasonable in these heightened times, according to the Globe and Mail editorial.

 

 Some wonder how the government will carry out this law without adequate resources.

 

“Canadians should not be willing to accept such an obvious threat to their basic liberties. Our existing laws and our society are strong enough to stand up to the threat of terrorism without compromising our values,” the editorial concluded.

 

“The other problem is the federal government is very good at passing all kinds of laws, but not allocating resources for the laws to be carried out properly, the threat is laws will become a blunt instrument,” Greifenhagen said.

 

For example, more screening to do requires more people doing the screening. Foreign workers or students applying to come to Canada already face delays during the screening process.

 

“Even in our university here, it is almost impossible for us to hire anybody as a professor who is not a Canadian, they have made it so difficult. It is no longer possible for the universities to hire experts or excellence from overseas,” Greifenhagen said

 

Increasing international enrollment is a priority for the U of R but Greifenhagen said if the proposed laws create even longer delays for students and faculty, top talent will go elsewhere.

 

“Why would you want to go to a country that puts you under suspicion? Even inadvertently they will put you under surveillance right away because of your religious identification,” he said.

 

Mohammad Shumon, a mechanical engineer at a multi-national company who is very new to Regina said Bill C-51 sends a different message to new Canadians.

 

“Canada is known as a multicultural, liberal country and the people of Canada itself are building a nice society, so this legislation will bring to the whole society a wrong message,” he said.

 

Mohammad also said it will very hard for Canada to get the right people in the right employment positions, if the bill becomes law.

 

“Definitely Canada is known as a peaceful country in the world so passing this legislation Canada will weaken its image because the world will think radicalization is increasing in this country,” Mohammad said.

 

Ali Alarbah, a petroleum engineer from Libya who is studying ESL at the U of R agrees. “For security it’s ok but to get foreign Muslim students to come to Canada will be hard,” he said.