Windsor, Ontario, goes back to colonial times but it wasn’t until 2016 that a call for “the duty of jihad” rang out in the Islamic newspaper Al Forqan. Now the Canadian border city, this writer’s home town, showcases a strange story involving an African refugee.
As the Windsor Star explained, Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board said Jonathan Nicola arrived in Canada from South Sudan on November 23, 2015, and given a student visa good until the end of January, 2017. Nicola’s application for the visa and his passport gave his date of birth as November 25, 1998. He told reporters he was lucky to escape the poverty and violence of his homeland and find refuge in Windsor, where he attended Catholic Central High School as a Grade 11 student, 17 years of age. But the Sudanese refugee bore scant resemblance to his student peers.
Nicola stood six-foot-nine, weighed more than 200 pounds, and played on Catholic Central’s senior basketball team, the Comets. He lived with Comets’ head coach Pete Cusumano, who touted him as an NBA prospect. But as the Star noted, “no one on the team or at the school appears to have realized Nicola’s story might not have been entirely true.”
Nicola was actually 29 years old, and that emerged on one of his attempts to enter the United States, when he gave his birthday as November 1, 1986. Last December Nicola made another attempt to enter the USA to play basketball with the Comets but American officials believed he was a fraud with no intention of returning to Canada. Canadian officials duly arrested Nicola and in an April 19 hearing he said neither he nor his mother had any idea of how old he was.
As the Star reported, in that hearing Nicola said his father was a mechanical engineer, and that both of his parents were residing in Saudi Arabia. The 29-year-old also said his family had moved to Syria around 2004 or 2005. There they applied for refugee status in the United States but were not accepted. Canadian official Kelly Cutting told the Star that “the peers of his parents are more sophisticated than people who live in a rural area in an underdeveloped country.”
Nicola claimed he came to Canada to get an education and help his family. Since he could study freely and safely in Canada, what he intended to do in the United States remains something of a mystery, though he reportedly had his eye on a high school in Florida with other Sudanese players. But since he was 29, he would be ineligible to play at any high school. How someone nearly 30 and showing gray in his beard could pass himself off as 17 is another troubling question.
Coach Pete Cusumano told reporters that Nicola had been “vetted twice by government officials and arrives with all his documents. Is the school supposed to call Canadian Border Services and tell them they got it all wrong?” While Canadians wait for answers, the case confirms that fraudulent entry to Canada is not a particularly difficult matter.
As the 2012 film Argo documented, Canada helped American hostages escape from Iran in 1979. This “Canadian caper” was truly masterful but by the 1990s the Canadian authorities were showing ineptitude and indifference, as in the case of Ahmed Ressam. The militant Islamist, also known as Benni Noris, showed up with a bogus passport but allowed to remain in Canada. Ressam supplemented his welfare payments by robbing tourists. He was arrested four times, convicted only once, and served no jail time.
In Montreal, Ressam linked up with the Osama bin Laden network and the Algeria-based Armed Islamic Group (GIA). He received terrorist training in Afghanistan and his goal was to blow up the Los Angeles Airport on New Year’s Eve, 1999. But for one sharp-eyed customs agent in Port Angeles, Washington, Ressam might have succeeded in becoming, as he was dubbed, the “millennium bomber.”
Ease of entry to Canada, meanwhile, has not prompted Islamic terrorists to go easy on Canadians. At least 24 perished in the attacks of September 11, 2001. In 2014 Islamic convert Michael Zehaf-Bibeau killed a Canadian forces reservist and wounded a guard in the House of Commons. In January, an attack by Al Qaeda jihadists in Burkina Faso claimed six Canadian lives and more than 20 others from 18 different countries.
In April, Muslim Abu Sayyaf terrorists in the Philippines beheaded Canadian hostage John Ridsdel of Calgary, held since last September with another Canadian and a Norwegian national for $6.5 million in ransom. As the Daily Mail reported, “Two men on a motorcycle left Ridsdel’s head, placed inside a plastic bag, along a street in Jolo town in Sulu province and then fled.”