Montreal (May. 14)
The Canadian government has allowed a legal but rarely used exception to Canada’s strict gun control laws to permit El Al security guards at Montreal’s Mirabel Airport to carry weapons. Solicitor General Robert Kaplan explained today that the exception was made because the Israeli air carrier has been singled out as a target for terrorist attack. He denied, however, that the decision was connected with any recent threat against El Al.
Canadian policy prohibits foreign police agents from being armed while in Canada. The government insists in fact that security agents travelling with foreign VIPs deposit wtheir weapons with Canadian authorities on arrival in the country. Their role is limited to liaison with Canadian police.
Kaplan said a “very small” number of El Al guards have been authorized to carry weapons which will be licensed to them by the Quebec police department, but would not say how many. He stressed that the guards, while foreign security agents, are residents of Canada. Kaplan said he plans no new legislation at the present time to lift the ban on foreigners carrying arms.
RCMP RECOMMENDED DECISION
According to the Solicitor General, the decision in El Al’s case was recommended by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) which complained of the ever increasing burden put on its forces to watch over the security of El Al passengers and crews. Kaplan noted that “The Palestine Libera
tion Organization has identified El Al as a target and proved it all over the world.”
RCMP Assistant Commissioner Douglas Mc-Gibbon, director of protective policing, said the El Al case is an exception. All other foreign security agents will be required to relinquish their arms. Kaplan said it took “a long time and lot of consideration before this lawful but exceptional treatment was accorded El Al.” Spokesmen for El Al could not be reached for comment.
A government security panel decided in January, 1980 that “nothing should be done that could precipitate any form of confrontation” with the Quebec authorities or El Al on the issue, a Federal source said. Shortly before that policy directive was issued, an Israeli security agent guarding Premier Menachem Begin on his visit to Canada in 1979 was forcibly disarmed by RCMP officers after he refused to relinquish his weapon to them. The incident created bad feelings between Israel and Canada.