In the spring of 1980, after the heady Canadian rescue of American Embassy employees in Iran, Canada’s diplomats made their debut on terrorists’ hit lists. Enraged by Ambassador Kenneth Taylor’s key role in smuggling the American staffers out of Tehran, several groups sought revenge. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency learned that the Palestine Liberation Organization had targeted the Canadian ambassador to Sweden, Kenneth Brown, for assassination. Canadian and Swedish authorities swiftly threw a security blanket around him. Although there is a backlog of orders for armored automobiles, security experts obtained one from a Florida firm after persuading an American businessman to accept a later delivery date. Eventually the threat receded. But the alert was a cold reminder that Canada, like most industrial states, is not immune to terrorist attacks.
That reminder haunts Canadian security advisers, who viewed last week’s kamikaze bombing in Kuwait with apprehension. Events such as the 10-day visit of Pope John Paul II to Canada next September have become matters of serious concern for security forces. Canada’s police forces are already in touch with European and U.S. forces, monitoring the movements of suspected terrorists—especially those with links to Soviet Bloc countries.
The fear that deranged or fanatical individuals may try to copy new terrorist techniques is a preoccupation with I
Canadian security experts who try to minimize the possibility by downplaying the likelihood that suicidal terrorists will strike in Canada. They argued that the phenomenon appears limited to a number of small fanatical groups operating largely out of the Middle East. “But anybody who is in the security business is concerned by this and monitoring it closely,” declared David Charters, deputy director of the highly respected Centre for Conflict Studies at the University of New Brunswick. “The Pope’s visit will be a real headache for security forces since he likes plunging into crowds,” he added. Experts are also worried about security for VIPs attending Vancouver’s Expo 86.
Warning: After last week’s kamikaze bombing, full security measures were in effect at Canadian embassies throughout the Middle East. Still, some experts say that it would take a major foreign policy reversal—such as the Progressive Conservative government’s short-lived plan to move the Canadian Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 1979—to trigger a rash of terrorist attacks. But the UNB centre warns against complacency. “Terrorist attacks inflict casualties and damage and also bring the government’s credibility into question,” it noted in a brief to a Senate committee in September. “Any government can lose its legitimacy in the eyes of its own people if it does not defend them.” It is a warning that governments can no longer ignore.
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