Immigration Minister Bernard Valcourt has ordered an inquiry to determine how the former Iraqi ambassador to the United States was granted landed-immigrant status in Canada without the knowledge of the ministers of external affairs and immigration.
"I find it unacceptable and incredible that this individual would be admitted to Canada without any minister being advised," Valcourt told reporters in Ottawa Wednesday."The minister of immigration, the then minister, and the (secretary) of state for external affairs, were not informed through memo or any alert system."
Mohammed Mashat, 60, is eligible to apply for citizenship in three years.
Mashat was the high-profile voice of Iraq in North America before the outbreak of the Persian Gulf war who denounced the U.S. news media as a pawn of the pro-Israel lobby. He received a visa on March 27 and gained admission to Vancouver, British Columbia, as a landed immigrant on March 30.
At the time, Joe Clark was external affairs minister and Barbara McDougall, who has taken over the post, was immigration minister.
On Jan. 15, just before the outbreak of the war, Mashat left Washington for Vienna, Austria, after Iraq was told by Washington to reduce its U.S. diplomatic staff, although the State Department says he was not specifically singled out for expulsion.
Austrian officials have said Mashat explained that he went to Vienna because his wife required hospital treatment there. Late in February he applied to immigrate to Canada as a financially secure retiree and was granted a personal interview at the Canadian embassy because he was a diplomat.
Valcourt said he would not dispute that Mashat jumped the line of people seeking to enter Canada as immigrants but argued that the context should be understood. He pointed out that Mashat did not want to return to Baghdad, and while in Vienna sought an interview at the embassy at which he expressed "security concerns for his person."
His entry into Canada drew a critical reaction from opposition parties in Ottawa, and a number of questions have been raised: Why didn't Canada's security and intelligence system flag Mashat's application? Why didn't Mashat apply for refugee status? Why did he get special treatment? Was the United States involved in speeding the application so that, once in Canada, he could be used for intelligence purposes?
James Kafieh, president of the Canadian Arab Federation, said in an interview Wednesday that he believes Mashat will become a prominent member of the Canadian community, perhaps as an academic.
Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service