2018 Public Report on the Terrorism Threat to Canada
April 29, 2019 Update
As per the Minister of Public Safety’s statement on the 2018 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada, a review of the language used to describe extremism has been undertaken and is ongoing. The Government’s communication of threats must be clear, concise, and cannot be perceived as maligning any groups. As we continue this review, it is apparent that in outlining a threat, it must be clearly linked to an ideology rather than a community. The Government will carefully select terminology that focuses on the intent or ideology. As a first step, the Government has updated terminology used in the 2018 report to eliminate terminology that unintentionally impugns an entire religion. Going forward, the Government of Canada is committed to applying a bias-free approach to the terminology used to describe any threats inspired by ideology or groups.
- Ministerial Foreword
- Executive Summary
- Part 1: The Current Terrorist Threat Environment
- Part 2: Threat Methods and Capabilities Observed Globally in 2018
- Part 3: Canada's Approach to Countering Terrorism
- Managing Canadian Extremist Travellers
- Arrests and Prosecutions in Canada for Committing Terrorism Offences
- Bill C-59 – An Act Respecting National Security matters & Bill C-21 – An Act to Amend the Customs Act
- Enhanced Passenger Protection Program
- Immigration Security Screening
- The Listing of Terrorist Entities
- Countering Radicalization to Violence
- Addressing Online Threats
- Canada's International Partnerships and Cooperation
I am pleased to provide the annual update on the threat to Canada from terrorism and violent extremism – part of our commitment to being open and transparent through a balanced and frank assessment of the current threat environment.
In many ways, this year's threat update is similar to those of the recent past. The threat posed by those espousing violent interpretations of religious, ideological or political views persists, but has remained stable. The National Terrorism Threat Level – a broad indicator of the terrorist threat to Canada – remains at Medium, unchanged since 2014.
Canada is known internationally as a welcoming and peaceful nation. But we are also resolute in our determination to reject and combat violent extremism in all forms. Put simply, violence and threats of violence have no place in Canadian society. Stopping and eradicating this is a top priority of the Government.
Conflicts and the evolving global security environment continue to shape the nature of the terrorist threat to Canada. Those in Canada who are inspired by conflicts abroad may seek to carry out an attack here. Despite the ongoing erosion of Daesh, we have not seen an increase in the number of Canadian Extremist Travellers (CETs) attempting to return. Our top priority in managing CETs also remains the same – to bring them to justice using all resources at our disposal.
Canadians expect their Government to keep them safe and to keep pace with evolving threats, tactics and global trends. Our security, intelligence, law enforcement, border and armed forces – to name a few – work around the clock in this regard. They consistently monitor all threats and review their approaches for how best to deal with them. This includes working closely with our friends and allies.
The global nature of terrorist and extremist threats necessitates close cooperation with international partners. Our partnerships are stronger than ever, including with NATO, the Five Eyes community, G7, the European Union, INTERPOL and others. We remain committed to being a collaborative force of good in the world and recognize that this can only be achieved by working together and leveraging our strengths.
Domestically, we also continue to build on our multi-layered approach to security. Bill C-59 (An Act Respecting National Security Matters) shaped by public views and concerns on how we as a country approach national security issues, is now closer to final Parliamentary approval and implementation. It brings with it an unprecedented era of transparency and openness and a clear signal of the importance that our departments and agencies have the most up to date mandates, tools and resources at their disposal.
Despite everyone's best efforts, there will be times when our collective security is challenged. There will be competing public views on what we as a nation should do. We will continue to take a measured but firm approach – a collaborative approach that unites our strengths – both as a government and as a nation.
Canada's terrorist threat environment remains stable. The principal terrorist threat to Canada continues to stem from individuals or groups who are inspired by violent ideologies and terrorist groups, such as Daesh or al-Qaida (AQ). Canada also remains concerned about threats posed by those who harbour right-wing extremist views. The April 2018 van attack in Toronto is a reminder that violent acts driven by extremists' views are not exclusively-linked to any particular religious, political or cultural ideology. Furthermore, groups, such as Hizballah, and extremists who support violent means to establish an independent state within India also remain of concern because while their attacks in Canada have been extremely limited, some Canadians continue to support these extremist groups, including through financing. At the time of publication, Canada's National Terrorism Threat Level remains at medium, as set in early October 2014 – meaning a violent act of terrorism could occur.
Though Daesh territorial holdings in the Syria-Iraq conflict zone continue to decline, Canada has not seen a related influx in the number of Canadian Extremist Travellers (CETs) who have returned to Canada, nor does it expect to. Owing to several factors (such as a lack of valid travel documents, denying boarding to aircraft destined for Canada, potential fear of arrest upon return, their continued commitment to Daesh or other groups, having been captured while in Syria and Iraq, or because they have died), CET numbers abroad remain stable at approximately 190 individuals with a nexus to Canada, and close to 60 who have returned.
In an effort to project strength and influence to counter its decreasing support and size, Daesh is resorting more frequently to false claims of responsibility for acts of violence, including in Canada. In June 2018, after Faisal Hussain fired on the busy Toronto neighbourhood of Danforth, Daesh quickly claimed responsibility, despite the total absence of any link between the attack and that group or any other terrorist group.
While globally, terrorist attacks have seen a decline, particularly in the West, ungoverned and permissive environments continue to allow terrorist groups to regroup or develop capabilities. Al-Qaida, Daesh and their affiliates continue to conduct attacks in the Middle East, South-East Asia, South Asia (Afghanistan) and North and West Africa. The Taliban continues to challenge the authority of the Afghanistan government through terrorist acts, while other groups, such as Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimeen (JNIM), Ansurul Islam, and al-Shabaab remain active in Africa.
In Canada, and more generally, in the West individuals who claim allegiance or who are inspired by terrorist groups use low-sophistication, low-resource tactics (such as vehicle ramming) to commit violent acts which achieve mass casualties and garner significant publicity and reaction. These individuals or groups are often inspired online, which is also a venue for recruitment, facilitation, guidance on weapons and/or financing.
The Government of Canada's approach to countering the threat posed by terrorism also continues to evolve, in line with the nature of the threat. Regardless, its primary objectives remain the same – to disrupt potential acts from occurring and bringing all perpetrators to justice. Since 2001, 55 individuals have been charged with terrorism offences under the Criminal Code. In each case, measures and tools available to the government are employed in a flexible and versatile whole-of-government approach, which are tailored for each specific individual and situation.
Looking forward, Bill C-59, An Act Respecting National Security MattersNote 1, would further enhance this approach by improving information sharing among security and intelligence partners; amending the Secure Air Travel Act to make it more effective at preventing travel by those intent on engaging in terrorism (while facilitating legitimate travel) and by amending parts of the Criminal Code to, among other things, make terrorism provisions more clear.
Finally, the National Strategy on Countering Radicalization to Violence will outline priority areas aimed at preventing radicalization to violence in Canada, which are shaped by the evolving threat environment.
Part 1: The Current Terrorist Threat Environment
The Current Terrorist Threat to Canada
According to the Criminal Code a Terrorist Activity is generally defined as an act or omission, inside or outside of Canada, committed for a political, religious, or ideological purpose that is intended to intimidate the public, or a subset of the public, with respect to its security, including its economic security, or to compel a person, government or organization (whether inside or outside Canada) from doing or refraining from doing any act, and that intentionally causes one of a number of specified forms of serious harm, such as causing death or serious bodily harm. This can also include conspiracy, attempt or threat to commit, or being an accessory after the fact or counselling in relation to any such act.
National Terrorism Threat Level (NTTL) – As of November 2018, the Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre (ITAC) assesses the terrorism threat in Canada to be MEDIUM. This means extremist groups and individuals located in Canada and abroad, have both the intent AND capability to carry out an act of terrorism in Canada. Such an attack could occur in Canada. Uniformed personnel face a specific on-going threat. They have been singled out as a particularly desirable target. The NTTL was formalized in early October 2014 when the threat level was first raised in Canada, anticipating incidents like the two terrorists attacks that occurred later in October of that year. The NTTL has remained the same since that time.
The principal terrorist threat to Canada and Canadian interests continues to be that posed by individuals or groups who are inspired by violent ideologies and terrorist groups, such as Daesh or al-Qaida (AQ).
At the same time, Canada also continues to face threats from individuals inspired to commit violence based on other forms of extremism, including from right-wing extremists, individuals who support terrorist groups such as Hizballah, and extremists who support violent means to establish an independent state within India. The risk of violence emanating from individuals inspired by these forms of extremism currently poses a lower threat to Canada than that of Daesh or AQ inspired individuals or groups.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the right to protest, as well as the rights of freedom of conscience and religion, expression, association and peaceful assembly. It is the evolution from hate to serious acts of politically-motivated violence with the intention of intimidating the public, or a segment of the public, in regard to its sense of security, that could be considered a terrorism offence.
In 2018, no terrorist attacks have been committed by terrorist groups or their followers in Canada. In fact, the rate of terrorist attacks in the West has decreased overall; statistics show a decline in the rate of terror attacks since early 2016, after having peaked in late 2014 / early 2015. Canada's National Terrorism Threat Level (NTTL) remains at Medium. However, individuals in Canada continue to express both the intent and capability to carry out violent acts of terrorism in Canada and against Canadian interests.
In the past year, attacks that were carried out by individuals who are not formally connected to any terrorist group continued to occur. These individuals, often inspired by other attacks, adopt terrorist methods when carrying out a violent act. Further, over the course of the last year, terrorist groups and their followers falsely claimed responsibility for attacks, when in fact they had no involvement or foreknowledge of these acts. Canada is not immune to this phenomenon. For example, in July 2018, 29-year-old Faisal Hussain opened fire in the busy Danforth neighbourhood in Toronto, Ontario. While law enforcement officials confirmed that there was no terrorism nexus, Daesh falsely claimed responsibility for the attack soon after it occurred.
Fewer Canadians are seeking to travel abroad to support groups like Daesh or AQ. A small number of individuals maintain intentions to travel and some have made attempts. When travel plans are prevented, some individuals may turn their extreme intentions to the domestic environment. Canada continues to be used for recruitment, fundraising and other activities that facilitate violent extremist activity abroad. Social media also remains a key tool for individuals in Canada and abroad who wish to communicate with other terrorists and violent extremist actors.
In July 2014, Daesh leaders incited followers to participate in conflicts abroad and called on supporters to conduct attacks against the West. At the time, a number of Canadians amplified the group's call for violence within Canada, which also resulted in some travelling abroad to join Daesh. Separately, two terrorist attacks occurred in Canada in October 2014. These incidents were praised by Daesh supporters online at the time.
In August 2018, Daesh's leader released a speech urging Daesh supporters in the West to remain defiant and follow examples of their "brothers" in Canada and elsewhere, and carry out attacks. Unlike in 2014, Canada has not yet seen a response to these calls for attacks, however, Canada remains vigilant.
Key Sunni Islamist Plots or Attacks Conducted in Canada:
- June 2006 – "Toronto 18" – 18 individuals arrested for planning attacks in major Canadian cities
- April 2013 – "Via Rail Plot" – two individuals arrested for plotting to derail a passenger train travelling between New York and Toronto
- July 2013 – "Canada Day Plot" – two individuals arrested for plotting to detonate two pressure cooker bombs before Canada Day Celebrations at the B.C. legislature in Victoria, B.C.
- October 2014 – a vehicular attack in Quebec killed a Canadian soldier and wounded another
- October 2014 – a Canadian soldier was killed at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, Ontario and a shooting occurred on Parliament Hill.
- March 2016 – a man was arrested in Toronto following a knife attack in a Canadian Armed Forces recruitment centre in which a soldier was wounded
- August 2016 – a Daesh supporter in Strathroy, Ontario, who intended to detonate a homemade explosive device, was killed by police
- June 2017 – a woman entered a Canadian Tire store in Toronto, Ontario, with a number of weapons and tried to attack a number of people.
- September 2017 – a man was arrested in Edmonton, Alberta after he crashed through a traffic barricade at a Canadian Football League (CFL) Armed Forces appreciation game and ran down a police officer, stabbed him and then fled the scene. Later that evening, the man was pulled over in a rented U-Haul at a check point. He fled the check-point and was pursued. In the pursuit, the man ran down four pedestrians on a busy street.
The Face of Right-Wing Extremism in Canada
In June 2014, Justin Bourque shot and killed three RCMP officers and injured two others in Moncton, New Brunswick. He was motivated by his extreme anti-law enforcement and anti-government beliefs. Bourque was charged with three counts of first-degree murder, and two counts of attempted murder. He plead guilty to all charges, and is currently serving two concurrent life sentences, without the possibility of parole for 75 years.
In January 2017, Alexandre Bissonette, shot and killed six individuals and injured 19 more, at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City in Ste-Foy, Quebec. Bissonette was motivated, at least in part, by his self-admitted fear of Muslims. Bissonette was charged with six counts of first-degree murder and six counts of attempted murder. Bissonette plead guilty to all charges. Sentencing in this case is still on-going.
Although the majority of recent global terrorist attacks can be attributed to individuals inspired by terrorist groups such as Daesh and AQ, other recent events around the world are bringing attention to the threat of violence from individuals who harbour right-wing extremist views.
Right-wing extremism (RWE) is traditionally driven by hatred and fear, and includes a range of individuals, groups, often in online communities, that back a wide range of issues and grievances, including, but not limited to: anti-government and anti-law enforcement sentiment, advocacy of white nationalism and racial separation, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, anti-immigration, male supremacy (misogyny) and homophobia. The threat of violence from any individuals, including those holding extreme right-wing views, may manifest in terrorist activity or other forms of criminal violence. However, while racism, bigotry, and misogyny may undermine the fabric of Canadian society, ultimately they do not usually result in criminal behavior or threats to national security.
In Canada, individuals who hold extreme right-wing views are active online, leveraging chat forums and online networks to exchange ideas, as opposed to openly promoting violence. These individuals leverage online chats and forums in attempt to create an online culture of fear, hatred and mistrust by exploiting real or imagined concerns.
Traditionally, in Canada, violence linked to the far-right has been sporadic and opportunistic. However, attacks perpetrated by individuals who hold extreme right-wing views and other lesser-known forms of ideological extremism can occur. A recent example is the April 2018 van attack in Toronto, Ontario, which resulted in the deaths of 10 people and alerted Canada to the dangers of the online Incel movement. It may be difficult to assess, in the short term, to what extent a specific act was ideologically-driven, or comment while investigations are ongoing or cases are before the court.
Right-wing extremism is not unique to Canada. In fact, some European RWE groups have established chapters in Canada. Likewise, some Canadian RWE groups have far-right connections in Europe.
Furthermore, some individuals in Canada continue to support violent means to establish an independent state within India. These violent activities have fallen since their height during the 1982-1993 period when individuals and groups conducted numerous terrorist attacks. The 1985 Air India bombing, which killed 331 people, remains the deadliest terrorist plot ever launched in Canada. While attacks around the world in support of this movement have declined, support for the extreme ideologies of such groups remains. For example, in Canada, two organizations, Babbar Khalsa International and the International Sikh Youth Federation, have been identified as being associated with terrorism and remain listed terrorist entities under the Criminal Code.
Hizballah - Established in 1982, in the wake of Israel's invasion of Lebanon, this Iran-backed group has developed into a socio-political-military organization. Hizballah continues to carry out and facilitate terrorist activities and provide support to several terrorist organizations, including with the covert provision of weapons, training, funding and guidance. In recent years it has participated in parliamentary elections and has formed part of the government. While some countries differentiate between the organization's militant and political wings under their listing regimes, Canada has listed Hizballah in its entirety under the Criminal Code.
Lastly, Canada also continues to face threats from individuals that support terrorist groups, such as Hizballah. Since the early 1980s, Hizballah has been responsible for, or linked to, multiple large-scale terrorist attacks worldwide; however, none of these attacks have occurred in Canada.
Hizballah operates within a global and highly diversified logistical and support structure, receiving considerable material and financial support from individuals and businesses in many countries, including Canada. Often, the individuals that support the group are not directly tied to Hizballah structures, but may sympathize with the organization for political reasons. Additionally, Hizballah operates an international network of charities that may divert funds to the organization or benefit from Hizballah funding. As a result, Hizballah has been a listed terrorist entity under the Criminal Code since 2002. Since that time, banks and financial institutions in Canada have had to freeze the entity's assets. Also, the Criminal Code mandates severe penalties for people or organizations that deal with the property of a listed entity.
Canadian Extremist Travellers
Difference between a Canadian Extremist Traveller and a Foreign Terrorist Fighter
A Foreign Terrorist Fighter (FTF) is the globally-used term for an individual, regardless of country of origin, who has travelled abroad to conflict zones, such as Syria and Iraq, to directly engage in terrorist activities. The term FTF is linked to international efforts to address this threat, including the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution 2396.
A Canadian Extremist Traveller (CET) refers to an individual with a Canadian nexus who has travelled abroad to participate in extremist activity. Extremist activity is defined as any activity undertaken on behalf of, or in support of, a terrorist entity. It can include, but is not limited to: participation in armed combat, financing, radicalizing, recruiting, media production, and other activity.
The Government continues to monitor and respond to the threat of Canadian Extremist Travellers (CETs) who are individuals suspected of travelling abroad to engage in extremist activity. This year, as with the last, approximately 190 extremist travellers with a nexus to Canada are currently abroad, including Syria and Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan and North and East Africa. Approximately half of the CETs who are abroad are located in Turkey, Syria or Iraq. These individuals have travelled to support and facilitate extremist activities, and, in some cases, to directly participate in terrorist acts. Approximately sixty (60) additional individuals with a nexus to Canada who are suspected of engaging in extremist activities abroad have returned to Canada. Of these 60, only a relatively small number of those who have returned are from Turkey, Iraq or Syria. These numbers have remained stable over the last three years.
Over the past year, Daesh has lost significant territory in Syria and Iraq. This has raised international concerns about the potential threat posed by extremist travellers returning to their home countries as they escape the conflict zone. Canada has not experienced, and does not expect to experience, a significant influx of returning Daesh-affiliated extremist travellers. Many of these individuals have been killed or captured in Syria and Iraq, and many will remain abroad due to their ongoing commitment to the cause. Of the CETs remaining there, only a few have openly expressed a desire to return to Canada.
With respect to those considering returning, measures are in place to ensure that the Government can monitor and respond to a return and to the threat posed by that individual CET. The government's response is tailored in each specific case based on the threat the individual may pose to Canada and can include a variety of mitigation measures, which will be discussed in part 3 of this report. Some of these same measures may also serve to deter individuals from trying to leave Canada to travel abroad.
Should Canadian extremist travellers return home, their experiences abroad and network of like-minded individuals could pose a security threat to Canada. As such, it is conceivable that all returnees possess the capability to conduct unsophisticated attacks, such as with knives or vehicles. They may also possess the ability to influence and encourage others to participate in such activities. There is also a threat posed by individuals who, for a variety of reasons, may have been stopped by the Canadian authorities from travelling abroad. Due to the travel restrictions placed on them, there is a possibility that these individuals may re-direct their efforts towards planning attacks here in Canada. Some may also choose to facilitate international terrorism activities abroad. For example, in 2009, Momin Khawaja was the first Canadian charged and subsequently sentenced under provisions of the Criminal Code which were introduced by the 2001 Anti-terrorism Act for his role in helping individuals aligned with AQ in the failed plot to use fertilizer bombs to attack targets in and around London, England.
Examples of Canadians Linked to Violent Incidents Abroad:
- July 2012 - a Canadian was allegedly involved in a bus bombing in Burgas, Bulgaria;
- January 2013 - two Canadians were involved in the siege of a gas facility in In Amenas, Algeria;
- April 2013 - one Canadian was killed while attacking the Somali Supreme Court in Mogadishu, Somalia;
- May 2016 - one Canadian was charged in a thwarted New York City bomb plot;
- July 2016 - one Canadian allegedly helped attack a restaurant in Dhaka, Bangladesh;
- June 2017 - one Canadian was charged in an attack on a police officer at a Flint, Michigan airport.
The International Threat Environment
The three European countries most recently affected by AQ or Daesh inspired terrorism are France, Belgium, and Germany. The United Kingdom has also experienced a number of successful attacks over the last couple of years; while a number of others have been disrupted.
Europe has experienced attacks that have changed by way of complexity and sophistication. The change is likely linked to operational security concerns, rather than to a general lack of know-how.
Firearms and improvised weapons, such as knives and vehicles, continue to be the weapons of choice, as seen in recent attacks. These weapons do not require much preparation, special skills, or financing, and facilitate spontaneous attacks.
European countries remain concerned about the volume of European extremist travellers who are still unaccounted for following the decline of Daesh. Adding to this, a significant number of imprisoned terrorists and other inmates who have been radicalized in prison are also scheduled to be released from European prisons in the coming years, which may impact the terrorist threat in their respective countries.
The Middle East and South/South-East Asia
While Daesh's physical "caliphate" in the Middle East has continued to decrease over the past year, the group retains an ability to inspire attacks, and is particularly capable in Iraq and several other Middle East countries. Despite setbacks, since 2017, Daesh has recognized several new provinces, including in Somalia and the Philippines.
Meanwhile, AQ's global network remains resilient, with a strong operational presence in the Middle East and in East and West Africa. AQ continues to demonstrate both intent and capability to launch attacks in various parts of the world. Notably, in early 2018, AQ-aligned groups in Syria coalesced into Hurras al-Din (HAD) to combat both the Syrian regime and Western and Allied interests in the Middle East.
In the past year, the Taliban has continued to conduct operations across Afghanistan designed to challenge the authority of the Afghan Government. These included attacks in Kabul, Farah and Ghazni provinces. Another element of this conflict is Islamic State Khorasan Province which has also conducted many high-profile attacks. In Southeast Asia, the region has continued to grapple with the threat of Daesh in the Philippines following the five month-long siege of Marawi City in 2017. In May 2018, Indonesia suffered a series of terrorist attacks linked to the Daesh-aligned Jemaah Anshor Daulah which used women and children as suicide bombers.
Ungoverned or permissive environments in these regions will continue to allow the expansion and development of capability for both AQ- and Daesh-aligned groups. While the physical territory held by these groups has generally decreased, the groups remain capable of conducting terrorist attacks and inspiring individuals, including in Canada.
Based on the number of successful recent attacks, the three countries in North and West Africa most affected by terrorism and/or violence inspired by AQ or Daesh are Mali, Libya, and Burkina Faso. Burkina Faso in particular is experiencing an increase in the number and sophistication of attacks. In northern Mali, the violent Daesh-inspired insurgency is fuelled by Tuareg grievances including, but not limited to its autonomy, nationality and migration. In central Mali and Northern Burkina Faso, Fulani grievances, which are caused by a mix of historical, political, economic, and ethnic rivals, are driving the conflict. In many cases, the violence in these regions is linked to existing tensions and underlying grievances, and some groups are forming or claiming allegiances with Daesh and AQ to heighten their profiles and in some cases boost their capabilities.
In West Africa, Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimeen (JNIM) continues to expand its operational reach amid conflicts with the United Nations Multi-Dimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali. The three main groups responsible for attacks in West Africa are JNIM, Ansurul Islam, and Daesh in the Greater Sahara. These three groups place a priority on targeting local law enforcement and military forces, as well as French presence and interests in the region.
Libyan instability and its insecure borders are allowing for the transfer of weapons, explosives and people throughout the region, creating insecurity and a more dangerous and unstable climate. Weak governance and ineffective law enforcement further contribute to long-term instability in the region. Libya is currently experiencing a civil war along ethnic, religious, and regional lines, which is fuelling the growth of violent extremist groups linked to either AQ or Daesh.
Boko Haram is known to be one of the most brutal terrorist groups in the world. Its activities continue to impact Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon.
Al-Shabaab (Somalia) has also been very active in carrying out attacks in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and elsewhere. Through these activities, the group is seeking retribution for the perceived injustice of involvement in Somalia from neighbouring countries.
Part 2: Threat Methods and Capabilities Observed Globally in 2018
This section of the report provides an overview of some of the global trends witnessed throughout 2018 when it comes to terrorist methods and capabilities.
Low-Sophistication Tactics, High Impacts
Terrorists continue to adopt low-sophistication, low-resource methods of committing high-impact violent attacks, especially in the West. This has been evident in the continued use of vehicles and knives in terrorist attacks, particularly in Europe. Not only has the use of vehicular attacks in crowded spaces become a tactic of choice, it has also inspired individuals with unclear motives but who are radicalized to violence, to use a similar approach. Such tactics require minimal skills and resources, but can achieve high-impact results, through mass injury or death and garner significant publicity and reaction. More sophisticated tactics, such as the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have been used in conflict zones, but are less common in Western attacks, including Canada. Nonetheless, some extremists have showed an interest in advancing or gaining new capabilities and skills that could be used to support terrorism and extremist violence. Some individuals have sought or acquired certain skills or training that could be used for nefarious purposes such as weapons training or the construction of basic IEDs. In addition, some have been experimenting with the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs, drones). In Canada, however, the main threat remains the potential for unsophisticated attacks on soft targets and unsecured public spaces.
As some individuals seek to acquire more sophisticated capabilities, it is possible that they may aspire to target more hardened targets, such as highly-secure special events, government buildings such as Houses of Parliament, or critical infrastructure, as these are highly symbolic targets. However, these types of venues often have an obvious physical security presence and may be well protected by law enforcement. This limits the opportunity for attacks. Further, the coordination required to be successful against these types of targets has limited the intent of some groups. Lastly, enhanced intelligence and law enforcement capabilities have proven to be a deterrent for some attackers and plots against these types of targets.
Targets with lower levels of physical security have become more attractive alternatives. These targets can include hotels, commercial venues, restaurants, and underground metro stations where people gather in larger numbers. Attackers will often look to target open spaces and large venues with mass gatherings using unsophisticated methods. While these types of public events continue to present physical security challenges as compared to well established, limited-access targets, unsophisticated attack plans against them are becoming more difficult due to the enhanced security measures and law enforcement put in place to protect them.
Threats to Transportation Infrastructure
Terrorist groups, including Al-Qaida and Daesh or those inspired by them, continue to use propaganda to communicate and influence individuals to attempt to attack transportation infrastructure. In particular, terrorists have sought to persistently target civil aviation.
Terrorist groups believe that such an attack would instill fear, inflict maximum casualties and cause economic damage to the West. Terrorist groups would then use a successful attack, especially if against a western aircraft, as further propaganda in an attempt to demonstrate weakness in our advanced security measures.
Globally, traditional hard targets, such as airports and aircraft, are still considered as the benchmark for terrorist attacks. However, some terrorist groups continue to show interest in soft targets within the transportation system, such as ticketing areas, baggage claim areas, security checkpoint line-ups, and other areas that are vulnerable to attack due to their public accessibility, and/or crowds.
As seen in the 2016 attacks in Istanbul, Turkey and Brussels, Belgium, as well as the 2017 attacks in Flint, Michigan and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the public areas of airports remain attractive terrorist targets due to their symbolic value, media coverage, and the opportunity to inflict mass casualties.
Attacks against transportation systems abroad have typically been coordinated attacks involving multiple operatives, while most attacks in North America have traditionally involved a single operative in an unsecured area, using easily acquired weapons such as knives or guns. Target selection often depends on the resources available to the attacker(s). While some individuals inspired by terrorist groups may choose a target of opportunity, individuals directly associated with a terrorist group may develop more complex plots with direction from abroad.
Individuals also remain interested in concealing weapons or explosives to circumvent security measures. Successful concealment would permit prohibited items to be brought into secure areas of a facility such as an airport, or onto an aircraft. However, constructing IEDs capable of avoiding detection at screening checkpoints requires sophisticated resources and knowledge. While employing IEDs remains the preferred attack method for terrorists, the construction and successful detonation of IEDs often remains a significant technical challenge outside of conflict zones. The July 2017 attempt to conceal IED components in a meat grinder, which was aimed at targeting Australian civil aviation, is an example of this trend. Fortunately, in this case, the IED never made it past the ticketing area.
Terrorists also remain interested in targeting trains and rail infrastructure. For example, detailed guides on how to do so were the subject of AQ in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) propaganda, Inspire 17, in 2017. Train and metro stations in Europe have been the target of IEDs, shootings, and knife attacks due to the ease with which terrorists can reach dense crowds. Within Canada, the disrupted rail plot of 2013 indicates that there are some domestic actors who have the intent to launch attacks against rail infrastructure. In this case, the perpetrators of the plot had planned to attack the daily Toronto to New York City train, jointly operated by Via Rail and Amtrak. A Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)-led investigation that involved numerous security and intelligence partners from both countries stopped the plot and arrested Chiheb Esseghaier and Raed Jaser.
Chemical and Biological Weapons
The past decade has seen a slow but steady rise in the use of chemical agents to carry out attacks abroad. In Iraq and Syria, Daesh has carried out chemical weapons attacks using chlorine and sulphur mustard, while the regime of Bashar Al-Assad was found responsible for several attacks on its own people using Sarin and chlorine. None of these incidents have a direct Canadian link. The use of chemical agents accounts for a smaller proportion of deaths compared to those caused by conventional means, and its use has mostly been limited to conflict zones.
Other agents could be used as chemical or biological weapons due to their availability or rapidly advancing technology. For example, toxic industrial chemicals could become weapons of opportunity given their widespread availability and previous historical use. From a biological perspective, recent and newly emerging technologies have increased concerns that a biological weapon could be produced using techniques such as synthetic biology.
Terrorist financing is the collection and provision of funds from legitimate or illegitimate sources to support, directly or indirectly, terrorist activity. It supports and sustains the activities of domestic and international terrorists that can result in terrorist attacks in Canada or abroad, causing loss of life and destruction.
The Criminal Code includes various offences related to terrorist financing, such as it being an offence to:
- Provide or collect property intending it to be used to carry out terrorist activity;
- Provide or make available property or financial services for terrorist purposes; or,
- Use or possess property for terrorist purposes.
Internationally, Canada continues to face exposure to terrorist financing risks, in particular in the Middle East and South Asia. Specific countries include Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen, Qatar, United Arab Emirates as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan. Terrorist groups and their supporters use a wide variety of means to finance their activities and further their goals. They can raise funds from legitimate sources, such as self-financing through regular income, or by diverting donations collected through charitable organizations. They can also raise funds from illegitimate sources of financing such as state-sponsors or undertaking criminal activities like hostage-taking for ransom or credit card fraud. Terrorists are increasingly using hard to track tools like prepaid cards, virtual currencies and crowdfunding operations to raise, collect, and transfer funds anywhere in the world.
Both Canadian and international sanctions have helped obstruct direct financial connections between Canada and designated groups and individuals active in certain conflict zones, such as Syria and Iraq. However, indirect financial connections to these jurisdictions still exist and continue to present a high risk for the Canadian financial system's exposure to terrorist financing activity.
Daesh, AQ and Hizballah continue to be the main concern. Their financial capacity allows them to carry out attacks, recruit and pay members, provide weapons and training, and maintain communications networks to disseminate propaganda. Even though Daesh in Syria and Iraq has been weakened, the group continues to have significant financial resources that allows it to fund and direct attacks in unstable regions such as Afghanistan and sub-Saharan Africa. For its part, Hizballah has a diversified funding structure and global reach that allows it to obtain funds from sympathetic individuals, businesses and charities, including via domestic support from Canada.
Canadian extremist travellers may also use the Canadian financial system to raise or move funds to either facilitate their return to Canada or their overseas travel.
Terrorist Use of the Internet and Cyber Capabilities
The Criminal Code includes various offences related to the terrorist use of the internet, such as its being an offence to:
- Counsel any person to commit a crime, whether it is committed or not; and
- Knowingly participate in or contribute to, directly or indirectly, any activity of a terrorist group for the purposes of enhancing the ability of any terrorist group to facilitate or carry out a terrorist act.
There is also a provision that allows judges to order the deletion of terrorist propaganda made publicly available on a computer system in Canada.
There are also offences that address cyber-attacks, including those committed by terrorists.
Terrorists and violent extremist groups continue to exploit the internet. Further, encrypted messaging applications also provide a secure means of communication which allow users to share information and ideological content, recruit individuals, coordinate and carry out operations, or offer material support with relative anonymity and security.
Social media in particular has allowed terrorists to target specific subsets of the population with tailored messages in an attempt to indoctrinate individuals and recruit them to their cause. While online activity on its own does not cause radicalization to violence, it can help facilitate the process. Online platforms can also be used by those who are involved in, or have completed, the process of radicalizing to violence, by providing a space where individuals can potentially reinforce prior beliefs, seek justification for future actions, spread propaganda, provide material support, recruit others, or communicate about planned actions and claims.
Terrorists use a combination of online platforms, each of which is exploited in a manner specific to its capabilities and the intent of the threat actor. This usually includes a network of social media, websites, file sharing services and encrypted messenger applications among others. For instance, Daesh has manipulated the online space, influencing its supporters to carry out violence with well executed and timely propaganda and a relatively sophisticated and coordinated communications strategy. Its strategy has included the use of an assortment of platforms hosting audio, picture and video content. However, the use of the internet and online platforms is not exclusive to Daesh.
Online facilitation is also leveraged by right-wing extremists and other extremist groups. Social media and the internet can also serve to amplify this threat. For example, certain algorithms may guide someone towards increasingly extreme content, help recruiters identify vulnerable individuals, and feed escalating anger among groups. The way information about violent incidents and the activities of terrorist groups is circulated can also create harm by worsening the impact on victims, as well as generating fear and polarization.
While some terrorist groups continue to express interest in developing more sophisticated cyber capabilities, their actual capability remains limited. This means that their offensive cyber activities have generally been limited in scope and duration, such as denying service or defacing public websites.
Part 3: Canada's Approach to Countering Terrorism
Addressing the threat of terrorism and violent extremism in Canada and to Canadian interests is a major priority for the Government. This section of the report provides an overview of the many steps that the Government has taken and will continue to take to address such threats.
Managing Canadian Extremist Travellers
The threat posed by extremist travellers is significant and presents difficult challenges to both Canada and our allies. However, the Government of Canada has taken many steps to ensure we are ready to address and mitigate this threat and protect Canadians.
The first objective in dealing with returning extremist travellers is to investigate and mitigate the threat they may pose to Canada and to Canadians and to ensure public safety. If there is sufficient evidence, the Government of Canada will pursue charges, and prosecute them to the full extent of the law. Criminal prosecution is the top priority and the preferred course of action. If there is insufficient evidence for a charge, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and its law enforcement, security and intelligence partners will continue their investigation, while other tools are leveraged to manage and contain the threat. These tools include: using a terrorism peace bond to seek to have the court place conditions on the individual (including electronic monitoring); active physical surveillance; using the Secure Air Travel Act to prevent further travel; additional border screening; and/or cancelling, refusing or revoking passports. In certain circumstances, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) may also employ threat reduction measures to reduce the threat posed by a returnee.
Canada's law enforcement, security and intelligence, and defence departments and agencies continue to monitor and respond to the threat of Canadian extremist travellers through a coordinated, whole-of-government approach. When the Government learns that a CET may be seeking to return, federal departments and agencies come together to tailor an approach to address the threat he/she may pose. Key departments and agencies, including Public Safety Canada, Global Affairs Canada (GAC), the RCMP, CSIS, the Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre (ITAC), the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces (DND/CAF), Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), Transport Canada (TC) and the Privy Council Office (PCO) work together to assess risks, develop options and manage the return of CETs. The whole-of-government approach enables the collective identification of measures needed to deal with the threat.
The Government can be informed of a potential return through a variety of means, including through information collected by Canada's security and intelligence departments and agencies as well as through key international allies such as the Five Eyes, the G7, INTERPOL and EUROPOL.
The RCMP also leads a National Security Joint Operations Centre (NSJOC), which includes several federal departments and agencies to enhance the Government's operational response to individuals seeking to travel abroad for terrorism purposes. This collaborative approach allows the Government of Canada to respond more effectively to the threat of Canadian extremist travellers, with all available tools and capabilities. The NSJOC facilitates timely information sharing and provides direct support to national security criminal investigations by the RCMP-led Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams (INSETs).
In addition to the contribution to the NSJOC, CSIS investigates threat activities of CETs and their potential for return to Canada. CSIS uses all available resources under its mandate, working with partner agencies, to ensure public safety. This includes disclosing information to law enforcement organizations in their investigations or prosecutions of CETs and using measures to reduce the threat, when reasonable and proportionate to the nature of the threat.
Another mechanism to address and mitigate the threat of CETs is to prevent individuals from radicalization to violence in the first place. To that end, Public Safety Canada has established the Canada Centre for Community Engagement and the Prevention of Violence (the Canada Centre), which is mandated to lead, support, and coordinate Canada's prevention efforts. These efforts include local-level programming aimed at countering radicalization to violence. The Canada Centre also funds innovative research, such as the project led by the University of Waterloo to better understand why Canadians travelled to Syria and Iraq to join terrorist groups.
Some returning CETs may also be suitable for programs which are designed to help them to disengage from violent extremism. These programs do not replace or prevent our security and law enforcement agencies from doing their work: namely monitoring, investigating, and potentially building a case for prosecution. Rather, these programs complement the work of these agencies by helping to reduce the threat posed by returning extremists travellers, while also addressing the health and social problems of associated travellers, including family members and children, returning from a conflict zone. These programs are not limited to returning extremist travellers but are also available to individuals in Canada who are radicalizing to violence, including right-wing extremists.
Arrests and Prosecutions in Canada for Committing Terrorism Offences
An effective response to terrorist threats and acts requires strong investigative and prosecutorial abilities. National security criminal investigations, including those related to terrorism offences, are conducted by INSETs, operating in major cities across the country. The INSETs are specialized, multi-agency investigative units which are co-located at the field level to enhance the RCMP's ability to investigate suspected terrorist activity and to respond to terrorism activities or incidents.
There have been a number of terrorism investigations, prosecutions and convictions in Canada since 2001. Some terrorism prosecutions are still ongoing, but there were no new proceedings in 2018. This is reflective of the fact that there were no terrorist attacks in Canada in 2018, that fewer individuals are attempting to travel abroad for terrorism purposes, and that the number of returning extremist travellers has remained stable since last year.
Overall, since 2001 a total of 55 individuals have been charged with terrorism offences under the Criminal Code. The RCMP has also charged five (5) additional individuals for a terrorist hoax using terrorism provisions available under the Criminal Code. These five (5) charges are counted separately as they did not require the Attorney General's consent.
In 2013, offences specifically related to leaving or attempting to leave Canada for the purposes of committing certain terrorism offences were enacted in the Criminal Code. Since then, a total of 12 individuals have been charged with specific terrorism travel offences:
- Three (3) have been convicted;
- Two (2) have had terrorism peace bonds imposed;
- Four (4) have outstanding warrants;
- Two (2) are awaiting trial; and
- One (1) has had the charges withdrawn.
The 12 individuals identified above are specific to those who have attempted to or have travelled, and does not include other terrorism charges brought against other Canadians that were not travel-related in that period.
In Canada, the ultimate decision on what charges should be used in response to a criminal act is taken by the police service and the independent prosecution service. The decision is taken by looking at the law, available evidence, the likelihood of conviction and the public interest. In addition, no proceedings in respect of a terrorism offence can commence without the consent of the Attorney General.
The Criminal Code sets out various specific terrorism offences and their punishments. Many of them were created to prevent terrorist activity from happening. The possible offences include different types of criminality, including participation, contributing, financing, and instructing.
One of the terrorism offences in the Criminal Code is committing an indictable offence that constitutes a terrorist act. An example of this could be first degree murder. If the situation surrounding the murder falls within the general definition of "terrorist activity" in the Criminal Code, a prosecutor can decide to charge and prosecute the individual for the murder and for the terrorism offence of committing an indictable offence (first degree murder) that constitutes a terrorist act. If the prosecutor decides to prosecute the terrorism offence, he or she will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the murder was committed for a political, religious, or ideological cause. While an offence may appear to be ideologically driven and motivated, concrete evidence is required to prove this. It is sometimes difficult to collect the necessary evidence, especially when evidence is collected outside of Canada. In fact, the complexity, disclosure issues and delays inherent to terrorism charges sometimes risks jeopardizing otherwise viable prosecutions given the need to try an accused within a reasonable time as dictated by the R. vs. Jordan decision. In addition, there are often challenges associated with the use of intelligence and sensitive information as courtroom evidence, especially when the alleged criminal offences took place abroad. Depending on these and various other factors, a prosecutor may choose to prosecute for first degree murder.
The Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC) and the RCMP work together to determine which charges have the best chance of successful prosecution, in order to most effectively address the threat.
Bill C-59 – An Act Respecting National Security MattersNote 2 & Bill C-21 – An Act to Amend the Customs ActNote 3
Bill C-59, An Act Respecting National Security Matters, proposes to modernize Canada's national security and intelligence framework. Overall, three core themes are embedded in Bill C-59:
- Enhancing accountability and transparency;
- Amending certain elements of existing legislation; and
- Ensuring that our national security and intelligence agencies can keep pace with the evolving nature of security threats.
Bill C-59 would enhance accountability and transparency of Canada's national security and intelligence activities through the establishment of the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency and an Intelligence Commissioner. These two bodies would ensure national security and intelligence activities are reasonable, necessary and comply with Canadian laws and values.
The Bill would also enact the Avoiding Complicity in Mistreatment by Foreign Entities Act. This would create a mechanism for the Governor in Council to issue direction to security and intelligence-mandated departments and agencies prohibiting the disclosure or request of information that would result in a substantial risk of mistreatment by a foreign entity, as well as certain uses of information that was likely obtained through the mistreatment of an individual by a foreign entity.
Other legislative changes to Canada's existing legal framework would include:
- Amendments to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act would seek to affirm the importance of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; clarify CSIS' threat reduction mandate, and would introduce additional safeguards and accountability requirements.
- Amendments to the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act would, for instance, clarify the scope and strengthen the threshold of information that can be disclosed between Canadian government institutions with national security responsibilities.
- Amendments to the Secure Air Travel Act (SATA) would include improvements to the recourse process, reduce uncertainty on the issue of whether young children are on the SATA list and introduce measures to enable centralized screening of air passengers against the SATA list.
- Amendments to the Criminal Code would, for example, replace the offence of advocacy or promotion of terrorism offences in general with a new counselling offence; clarify the definition of terrorist propaganda; raise the threshold for obtaining a recognizance with conditions; and enhance the procedural protections under the Youth Criminal Justice Act for youth involved in the criminal justice system due to terrorism-related conduct.
Bill C-59 would also ensure that Canadian security and intelligence agencies can keep pace with the evolving nature of security threats. For example, the modernization of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act would enable CSIS under strict conditions and safeguards to collect, retain and use datasets that contain personal information. Changes would also establish in law an authorization regime for acts or omissions undertaken during intelligence activities that would otherwise constitute offences.
The Bill would also allow for the enactment of the new Communications Security Establishment Act. The proposed Communications Security Establishment (CSE) Act would broaden the range of capabilities CSE could use to acquire foreign intelligence from foreign targets outside of Canada. This new authority would allow CSE to interact with foreign targets operating on computer networks and systems that could be used, for example, to uncover foreign extremists' efforts to radicalize individuals to conduct attacks in Canada and abroad. The Act would also give CSE the authority to conduct active cyber operations, and allow CSE to use online capabilities to interfere with the ability of foreign terrorists groups to recruit Canadians or plans attacks against Canada and its allies.
Bill C-21, An Act to Amend the Customs Act, if passed, would be a key piece of legislation to assist the Government's ability to respond to the threat of Canadian extremist travelers, among others. The Bill would provide the legal authority to collect and make use of information on potential extremist travellers seeking to leave Canada.
Enhanced Passenger Protection Program
The Passenger Protect Program (PPP) is a national security tool aimed at preventing the travel by air of individuals suspected of posing a threat to transportation security or seeking to travel to commit certain terrorism offences. The PPP works with air carriers to screen commercial passenger flights to, from, and within Canada, and uses specific, reasonable and necessary measures to address security threats. This program is administered by Public Safety Canada and Transport Canada, in cooperation with several other federal departments and agencies.
The PPP allows the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to list an individual under the SATA, and direct an air carrier to deny transportation to the individual or require them to undergo additional screening. The 2018 Federal Budget announced funding to enhance the PPP so that the screening of flights would be brought under government control through a centralized screening system that would build on advance passenger screening already in place under the Canada Border Services Agency. Centralized screening would improve the security and integrity of the program and would allow the implementation of a redress process. The redress process would allow the government to distinguish between individuals who are false-positive matches and those who are listed under the SATA.
An important means of preventing individuals connected to terrorist activities from entering or gaining status in Canada are the Government of Canada's immigration security screening processes. Foreign nationals seeking status in Canada must meet national security-related requirements, as set out in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. These include grounds for refusal based on engaging in terrorism. Individuals who are found to be inadmissible would not be permitted to enter or remain in Canada. Similarly, Section 22 of the Citizenship Act sets out various situations which prevent a person from becoming a Canadian citizen, the majority of which are related to criminality or security.
The Listing of Terrorist Entities
The listing of an individual or group as a "terrorist entity" continues to be one of the public instruments the Government uses to identify a person or group's involvement with terrorism. It also sends a strong message that Canada will not tolerate such acts of violence.
The Criminal Code is Canada's primary domestic listing tool and carries with it significant consequences. The regime helps block those in Canada and Canadians abroad from supporting listed entities. Listing under the Criminal Code provides the legal and institutional framework to implement measures to freeze terrorist funds, to help prohibit the financing of individual terrorist organizations, and to help criminalize certain support activities to the listed entity.
Since the release of the 2017 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada, the government listed Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) as a terrorist entity pursuant to the Criminal CodeNote 4. Formed in 2015, the group is an officially recognized affiliate of Daesh and is based in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. ISIS-K's objective is to establish the "wilayat" (province) of Khorasan as part of the global Islamic State Caliphate. Since its establishment, the group has carried out bombings, small arms attacks, and kidnappings against civilians, aid organizations, and security forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The group also possesses the capacity to target Western interests.
In 2018, the government also updated the name of listed terrorist entity Jabhat-al Nusra (JN) to Hay'at Tharir al Sham (HTS), including their aliases. The name change occurred in January 2017, when JN (which had changed its name from Jabhat Fateh al-Sham) merged with four smaller groups. HTS' objective is the overthrow of President Bashir al-Assad's regime and the establishment of an Islamic state under Sharia Law. Updating the group's name will support the effective application of counter-terrorism measures.
Countering Radicalization to Violence
Canada's collaborative approach to countering radicalization to violence involves many partners and organizations, including the RCMP.
In its ongoing efforts to keep Canadians safe, the Canada Centre provides national leadership and supports local level efforts aimed at preventing radicalization to violence in Canada. Early priority activities of the Canada Centre include building, sharing and using knowledge, addressing radicalization to violence in the online space, and supporting interventions. These priorities are shaped by the evolving threat environment and articulated in the Canada Centre's National Strategy on Countering Radicalization to Violence.
In addition, Public Safety Canada's Community Resilience Fund provides targeted investments to support innovative research and local level programming to counter radicalization to violence. This includes support for projects that help understand and address the role of social media in processes of recruitment and escalation towards violence, improve digital literacy, and provide educators and other frontline practitioners with the knowledge and materials to constructively and safely discuss online terrorist activity with students, parents, and community members.
Furthermore, the RCMP's long standing efforts to counter radicalization to violence encompass all forms of violent ideologies. The First Responder Terrorism Awareness Program team develops and manages training for first responders and key partners to provide awareness about a range of criminal threats. The training helps partners identify the early signs of radicalization to violence and outlines possible responses.
While criminal prosecution is the Government's top priority, the RCMP's Federal Policing Intervention Program provides support to national investigators so they may better understand what drives individuals to commit acts of violence and how the RCMP and law enforcement partners can disrupt and/or disengage an individual from the process of radicalizing to violence. This counterterrorism program seeks to address the ideology and risk factors behind the radicalization to violence.
Addressing Online Threats
In an effort to address online threats, the Government of Canada has applied a multi-stakeholder approach to preventing and countering the terrorist use of the internet. This includes ongoing engagement with international allies and other international and domestic partners and is structured around three lines of effort:
- Supporting research to understand how terrorist groups operate online and how best to counter their activities;
- Working with technology companies and international partners to reduce the impact of terrorist content; and,
- Supporting civil society groups to develop digital literacy guidelines and alternative narratives.
Canada's efforts focus on protecting the general public from terrorist narratives, preventing and countering terrorist material and activity online and helping ensure that alternative narratives provide points of view that counter those promoted by terrorists. Government support for research is focused on making these efforts more effective, while ensuring the protection of personally identifiable information.
The Government of Canada also engages with technology companies through the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT). GIFCT was established in 2017 by Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube and structures how those companies and other members work together to address terrorist activity on their platforms. Engagement with GIFCT occurs bilaterally and through both the G7 and Five Country Ministerial. Within the G7 and Five Country Ministerial contexts, the Government of Canada has asked GIFCT and its members to increase transparency around their efforts to counter terrorist activity, support collaboration with researchers, develop and implement new technological solutions, and help improve the capacity of smaller companies.
Canada's International Partnerships and Cooperation
Given the global nature of the threat posed by terrorism, a collaborative international response is required for meaningful progress in countering the threat both in Canada and abroad. Canada works closely with its partners in exchanging timely intelligence and sharing information to counter the terrorist threat effectively.
One of Canada's most important multilateral forums for intelligence and information sharing remains the "Five Eyes" community. Canada regularly attends the Five Country Ministerial, an annual meeting between the security and immigration ministers of the Five Eyes countries to discuss national security challenges and proactive areas for collaboration. The 2018 Five Country Ministerial was hosted by Australia in August, and focused on improving cooperation on a range of national security issues, including foreign terrorist fighters, terrorist use of the internet, and the challenges posed by encryption for lawful investigators.
Canada is actively engaged in international counterterrorism efforts with partners both bilaterally and in a number of international fora including: the United Nations (UN), the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum (GCTF), the Global Coalition to Counter Daesh, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the G7.
In 2018, Canada held the G7 presidency. Canada was responsible for hosting and organizing the G7 Leaders' Summit that took place in Charlevoix, Quebec, in June. At the summit, G7 leaders committed to continuing to work together to address terrorist threats.
In addition to the Leaders' Summit, Canada's G7 presidency offered an opportunity to host a number of G7 Ministers' meetings leading up to the Leaders' Summit. This included a meeting of G7 Foreign Affairs and Security Ministers, who met on the theme of building a more peaceful and secure world. During these meetings, Ministers agreed that G7 partners would work together by providing advice to their respective leaders for the Summit in Charlevoix. This included, addressing transnational threats to security, including managing extremist travellers and their families, efforts to counter violent extremism, and terrorist use of the internet.
Canada's response to the threat of terrorism also contains a robust military response capability both at home and abroad, which is articulated in Canada's Defence Policy, Strong, Secure, and Engaged. Under this Policy, the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces is charged with actively addressing threats abroad for stability at home, developing awareness of its operating environment to better predict and respond to crises, and addressing the threat stemming from terrorism and the actions of extremists and terrorist groups.
To fulfill its mandate, DND/CAF maintains specialized forces and capabilities on very short notice to support Canadian national security interests both at home and abroad. Since 2014 DND/CAF continues to contribute to the Global Counter Daesh Coalition with significant CAF presence in Iraq. Additionally, CAF continues to conduct numerous security cooperation and capacity building activities that enhance the abilities of partner nations to counter the threats posed by violent extremist and terrorist groups within their own borders.
In addition, as a way to combat the financing of terrorism, Canada is a member of the intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The FATF, which brings together 37 member jurisdictions or regional organizations, sets standard and promotes effective implementation of legal, regulatory, and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing, and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system. As a member of the FATF, Canada has committed to implementing international standards to combat the financing of terrorism.
As Canada's financial intelligence unit, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) is also an active member of the Egmont Group, an international network of financial intelligence units that collaborates and exchanges information about terrorist activity financing.
Canada's international counter-terrorism efforts are also delivered through Global Affairs Canada's Counter-Terrorism Capacity Building Program (CTCBP) and allows Canada to support security and intelligence agencies in partner countries around the world with training and equipment. In 2018, among of the many projects to which Canada contributed, two particularly interesting projects should be highlighted: (1) Enhancing the Jordanian capacity to respond to security incidents; and (2) supporting a counter-terrorism capacity-building project for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
Individuals inspired by terrorist or violent ideologies continue to pose a significant threat to Canada, Canadians and Canadian interests. While Canada's terrorist threat environment remains stable, we are not immune to the threat of ideologically-inspired violence.
In 2018, the threat environment was characterized by individuals who continue to use the internet to support their activities, and how inspired individuals continue to show interest in low sophistication type of attacks with easy access targets. However, as terrorism evolves, so too does the Government of Canada's approach. Canada continues to respond to the evolving threat environment and is taking the necessary steps to better the tools and resources available to the Government, including through Bill C-59 An Act Respecting National Security Matters.
Canada continues to invest in capacity building abroad and cooperates closely with international partners and allies. The Government also continues to list new terrorist entities under the Criminal Code, work to counter online threats, undertake efforts to counter radicalization to violence, and take a range of other measured steps to protect Canadians.
Above all, the Government of Canada continues to counter terrorism in a manner consistent with the expectations of Canadians – to protect its people and its allies in a manner that reflects our shared values, rights and freedoms.
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