Under existing Canadian law, there's nothing to prevent someone
from holding a bake sale and giving the proceeds to Osama bin Laden.
But that is expected to change. Lloyd Axworthy, Canada's foreign
affairs minister, signed the United Nations convention on the
financing of terrorism on Thursday. As a signatory to the
convention, Ottawa will be expected to bring its statutes into
harmony with the convention, which forbids the "transfer or
reception" of financial assets for terrorist ends.
Counterterrorism experts have long complained about the relative
ease with which they say the approximately 50 terrorist groups and
their affiliates operating in Canada are able to raise funds here.
Now, experts say, Canada will most likely pass a law making fund-
raising for terrorist causes - like bake sales- illegal.
But many methods alleged terrorists use - like extortion - are
already prosecutable offenses here. Indeed, the circle around Ahmed
Ressam, whose arrest at the US border in mid-December has set off
the current concern about crossborder terrorism, apparently has
financed its activities by crime: stealing phones and computers from
parked cars in Montreal and using fraudulently obtained cards to
extract cash from automatic tellers.
Dan Brien, spokesman for Canada's solicitor general, says even in
the case of ostensibly legal fund-raising by front organizations,
"It's not that Canada's powerless to prosecute," because there are
conspiracy statutes that can invoked. But fund-raising for
terrorists is not currently a specific offense under the Canadian
In contrast, under US law it is illegal to provide "material
support or resources ... knowing that they are to be used in
preparation for, or in carrying out a terrorist offense." It is
similarly illegal knowingly to provide "material support or
resources" to any group on the United States State Department's list
of designated foreign terrorist organizations.
David Harris, former chief of strategic planning for the Canadian
Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), is one of a number of experts
who argue that Canada needs to emulate the US system of designating
groups as terrorist organizations. "Once you have a system of
designation ... each situation is evaluated on its own merits."
Such a system is reported to be under development in Ottawa. And
a spokesman also says that a method for "deregistering" charitable
trusts found to be fund-raising fronts for terrorist organizations
is "something we're developing policy on."
But others note that Washington's list of terrorist organizations
is not free of political considerations. …