What Was an Alleged Russian Spy Doing in Canada?

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Canadian military historian and security analyst Jack Granatstein suggested a range of motives might be behind Hampel's alleged activities. "We're a country of immigrants," Granatstein told TIME. "We have just about every single ethnic group here and a lot of these people are interested in the home country, and they are fertile ground for spying, for money-raising, for arms-buying." Granatstein also noted that Montreal is the center of the Canadian aerospace industry and has sophisticated information technology firms as well as a significant share of the country's pharmaceutical research and development sector, reportedly a favored target of Russian industrial espionage globally. There's also Canada's close proximity to the U.S. "We're next door to the U.S.; we know a lot about what the Americans are doing. That might be of interest to others. I'm thinking more of our foreign affairs department, our defense department, which know a good deal about American broad policy. "

In fact, Canada has little in the way of military or even industrial secrets compared to the U.S., experts say, and Hampel may actually have been targeting U.S. trade secrets or military information. Whatever the reasons for Hampel's clandestine activities, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay anticipated U.S. concern and deflected part of the blame back to the Americans. Washington's Western Hemisphere travel initiative, which will soon require passports for any Canadian crossing to the U.S., is already overloading Canada's passport bureaucracy, MacKay said. "What this does is it essentially reminds us of how diligent we have to be in every aspect of the issuance of passports," MacKay told TIME. "It's this balancing act of getting the security in line with the need Canadians have for passports, the increase in volume that we have right now; there's an enormous number of passports being issued now."

Full details of the case may never be known because of secrecy provisions surrounding national security arrest certificates. A court hearing into Hampel's deportation order was adjourned after he said he needed time to understand the allegations against him. Public Safety Minister Day said that Hampel is free to forgo an appeal of his detention order and "return to his country, to Russia."

But Mamedov had a coy reply to questions about Hampel's fate should he return to Russia. "It's a purely hypothetical question," he said. "I can ask you, if he turns out to be a drug pusher, will you take him back?"

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