Lawmaker Urges Change in Passports to Protect Persons from Terrorists

Jerry Weiner, Minister of State for Immigration, proposed Sunday that Canada drop a citizen’s place of origin from its passports to protect them should they fall into the hands of terrorists while travelling abroad.

“The act of being a Canadian should guarantee the same security to everyone,” Weiner, the only Jewish Minister in the Brian Mulroney government, told a Canadian Jewish Congress committee. “When we identify a citizen’s place of origin we are placing Canadians at risk in saying you are not as equal as other Canadians,” he said.

Weiner said he would raise the issue in the Cabinet this week and ask that the change be made immediately. He spoke in response to a question by Gerda Frieberg, a Holocaust survivor from Toronto who expressed fear that Canadians born in Israel, the U.S. or other countries targeted by terrorists could be singled out for persecution. Weiner, in his remarks, referred to the terrorist attacks in Karachi and Istanbul this weekend.

If his proposal is accepted, it would reverse a June decision by External Affairs Minister Joe Clark that a citizen’s birthplace must remain on passports for identification and customs purposes.

A CASE IN POINT

A case directly related to this issue was raised by the Israel-born Canadian film-maker Simcha Jacobovici. He has asked that all traces of origin be deleted from his passport on grounds of potential persecution. “I am proud to be from Israel, but that’s my business. A passport is supposed to provide your protection. It is not an ID card,” he said.

Jacobovici was told by officials to apply for a new passport showing only his city of birth, not the country, a policy consistent with the recommendations by a United Nations conference in 1963.

“This seems kind of silly,” Jacobovici said in Toronto. “Are we to assume that terrorists are totally ignorant of geography?” He cited the hijacking of an Air France plane to Entebbe, Uganda, in 1976 where the terrorists seized the passengers’ passports and separated Jews from non-Jews.

Jacobovici said he started legal proceedings against Clark’s ruling in Ontario Superior Court last Friday. He said he hoped to have the decision declared unconstitutional on grounds that it violates guarantees that Canadians will not be discriminated against because of their origins.

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