ARCHIVED - Speaking Notes for the Honourable Vic Toews P.C., Q.C., M.P. Minister of Public Safety - At an event to launch The 2013 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat To Canada

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Toronto, Ontario
June 13, 2013

Check against delivery

Good morning and thank you for being here today.

Last year I had the pleasure of releasing Canada's Counter-terrorism Strategy

I am convinced that our Strategy effectively addresses the threat of terrorism to Canada, its citizens and its interests around the world.

This single, comprehensive Strategy guides the actions of more than 20 federal departments and agencies to better align them to prevent, detect, deny and respond to terrorist threats.

Without a doubt, Canada's success in remaining resilient in the face of terrorist threats depends on having an approach that is flexible, forward-looking and adaptable to an evolving threat environment.

Which is why I am pleased to be here today to release the 2013 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada.

Our Government is fulfilling the commitment we made last year in the Strategy to report annually on the evolving terrorist threat to Canadians and Canadian interests.

One thing is clear — Canada is still a priority target.

The Public Report examines the most critical developments in terrorism in 2012.

It also identifies some of the measures our Government has taken in the last year to address these threats.

Ladies and gentlemen, the terrorist threats that Canadians face at home are most often connected with and inspired by developments that happen abroad.

Understanding how these international developments impact the threat to Canadians is therefore essential.

As most Canadians already know, global violent extremist groups such as al Qaida have been the leading terrorist threat to Canada for many years.

This has not changed.  Al Qaida itself is weaker today than it once was, but it still poses a threat.

It provides guidance to other terrorist groups, particularly its regional affiliates.

These affiliates, including al Qaida in Iraq, al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, al Qaida in the Islamic Maghrib and al Shabaab, pose a persistent threat to Canada.

Al Qaida and its affiliates remain interested in conducting international terrorist attacks.

Our Government has listed over 40 different terrorist groups under our Criminal Code that pose a threat to Canada, Canadians and Canadian interests. 

For example, we listed al Qaida in Iraq in 2012, and most recently, the Haqqani network and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

This requires financial institutions to freeze any of these entities' assets and prohibits anyone in Canada from knowingly dealing with these organizations. 

The objective is to cut off the resources they need to finance terrorism.

We will continue to monitor emerging global threats and explain as openly as possible what these threats mean for Canadians.

Evolving conflicts abroad continue to shape the nature of the terrorist threat to Canada.

We continue to watch for developments abroad that may drive international and domestic terrorism.

In Africa, for example, we have seen an increase in terrorist activity in the past year.

Terrorists and other armed groups seized territory in Northern Mali.

Growing terrorist violence threatens to spill across borders and undermine regional stability, prompting international efforts to counter local terrorist activity.

In the Middle East, Syria's civil war is a humanitarian tragedy that had claimed over 60,000 lives by the end of last year — and that number continues to rise.

When I was in Jordan this February, I had the opportunity to visit Camp Zaa'tari and to witness the challenge posed by the crisis first hand.

The flight of Syrians from the conflict poses a challenge to countries throughout the Middle East.

At the same time, Syria has become both a major centre for terrorist activity and an emerging cause for global terrorist activity.

Individuals from around the world – including Canada – have travelled to the region to fight the Syrian government, and some of these individuals are suspected to have joined local extremist groups.

Our Government is worried that individuals fighting alongside terrorist groups could return to their home countries to promote terrorism or even conduct attacks.

Terrorist violence in Syria could spill across borders and could lead to further regional instability.

Of significant concern is the potential for Syrian conventional or chemical weapons to fall into the hands of terrorist groups.

Which leads me to the issue of state-supported terrorism.

It is clear that Syria – as well as Iran – continue to provide state support for terrorist groups such as Hizballah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas.

In 2012, our Government passed the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, which allows victims of terrorism to sue listed foreign states for committing an act of terrorism or supporting listed entities under the Criminal Code.

These legislative changes permitted Canada to list both Syria and Iran as state supporters of terrorism under the State Immunity Act.

Canada also listed Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – Qods Force as a terrorist entity under our Criminal Code.

Canada suspended diplomatic relations with Iran and closed our embassy in Tehran.

Our Government has taken a stand against state supported terrorism.

And while these developments take place far from Canadian shores, international events are often connected with terrorist threats here at home.

Recent events — including the tragic attack at the Boston Marathon and the arrest of individuals in Montreal and Toronto allegedly plotting to attack a passenger train – demonstrate that terrorism remains a real threat.

The successful Canadian arrests of individuals accused of terrorism offences demonstrate the effectiveness of the Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams —known as INSETs - working in major cities across the country.

INSETs, led by the RCMP, are staffed by employees from CSIS, CBSA, and local law enforcement.

Their ability to respond appropriately to threats to the security of Canada is informed in part by the work of CSIS and other members of the intelligence community.

This approach has greatly improved the ability of agencies to work together and has led to many successes, including the recent arrests in Montreal and Toronto, as well as a number of other terrorism-related arrests, including those of the Toronto 18.

Last year, recognizing the value of this model, our Government created a new INSET in Edmonton.

Recent allegations of Canadian involvement in terrorist attacks in Algeria, Bulgaria and Somalia have drawn attention to the reality that several dozen Canadians are believed to have travelled, or attempted to travel abroad to become involved in conflicts in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and elsewhere.

The problem of citizens traveling overseas to fight is not unique to Canada.

Our international allies each face similar challenges.

We have taken steps to address the problem with the new Combating Terrorism Act that made it a criminal offense to leave Canada for the purposes of participating in or facilitating terrorist activity.

We have also passed the Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act to improve our ability to counter human smuggling, and deter terrorists and foreign criminals from entering Canada.

We continue to work with partners around the world to address terrorism. 

We work closely with the United States through our Beyond the Border Action Plan, Canada's Cyber Security Strategy, and our National Critical Infrastructure Strategy and Action Plan, all of which contain measures to guard our nation against acts of terror – whether at our land, air or marine borders, or through our digital networks.

Through Canada's Counter-terrorism Capacity Building Program, we are providing training, funding, equipment and legal assistance abroad – helping our key international partners confront terrorism before it poses a threat to Canada.

Our work also involves reaching out to Canadians in an effort to build strong, resilient communities – communities that are resistant to violent extremist ideologies; communities prepared to work together and with government to mitigate the impacts of terrorist activity.

One opportunity to do that is our work with the Cross- Cultural Roundtable on Security.

This is an advisory group wherein we engage leaders from a variety of ethno-cultural communities across Canada in an ongoing dialogue on national security issues, including immigration, border security and hate crimes.

These meetings give us an opportunity to engage in an open and frank discussion as part of the Government's ongoing work to nurture trust and understanding. 

The positive support and reaction from the local community following the recent arrests demonstrates that our approach is working.

We also continue to work with the private sector and first responders to detect early signs of possible threats.

For example, the RCMP Counter Terrorism Information Officers are building partnerships with first responders across Canada, and increasingly with non-governmental organizations and other levels of government.

Building on this initiative, the RCMP-led Critical Infrastructure Criminal Intelligence program, is also engaging businesses in sectors, such as chemical distributors, self storage, hotels and private security firms, to empower them to report suspicious behavior and activity. 

Ladies and gentlemen, it is clear that the global terrorist threat continues to shift and evolve, and that international events can have a direct impact here at home.

While no government can prevent all terrorist activity from happening, we can take measures to counter the terrorist threat; whether a threat within Canada, support for violence abroad, or activities that undermine Canada's efforts to secure international peace and security.

Canada is also actively working to identify threats as early as possible, ensuring robust and effective alerting systems are in place, and sharing information appropriately and proactively within Canada, and with key allies and non-traditional partners.

I invite all Canadians to read the Report on the Public Safety Canada website.

While terrorist threats remain, we continue to see positive developments in our efforts to strengthen and build resilience to terrorist threats.

Through successful domestic and international partnerships, through strong legislative action and through ongoing community engagement, our Government is taking the appropriate actions to protect Canadians and Canadian interests, at home and abroad.

Our Counter-terrorism Strategy is working.

We will continue to take action to keep the safety of Canadians as our top priority.

Thank you.

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