In an opinion piece published August 23, 2014 in the Globe and Mail, Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) director Michel Coulombe expresses his views on Canadian nationals joining jihad fronts abroad.
Alarmed by the rise of ISIL and by fact “well over 100 Canadians” have left the country in order to support or train with terrorist movements abroad, M. Coulombe underlines the necessity of undermining the romanticization of the religious warrior figure, and that in part through liaising with the concerned cultural communities.
Author: Michel Coulombe
Source: The Globe and Mail, August 23, 2014
“Hundreds and hundreds of mostly young people – from North America, from Australia, from the United Kingdom, from all over Europe and across the Middle East – are signing on with ISIL, al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab or any number of fanatical groups that commit unspeakable violence in a global war against pluralism, democracy, human rights and gender equality.”
“Some of these individuals have been killed in the conflict theatres to which they have travelled, such as the two young men from London, Ont., who died attacking a gas facility in Algeria, and a number of other young men from Calgary who met a violent end in Syria or Iraq.”
“One Canadian reportedly killed in Syria had been convicted for his role in the ‘Toronto 18’ terrorist plot of 2006, demonstrating the tenacious nature of this extremist ideology.”
The CSIS director also among others underlines the potential national threat posed by Jihadists coming back “home”, giving as example the famous 2011 Liège shooting spree in Belgium in which a “returnee” French citizen killed a score of innocent civilians in an irrationally motivated burst of extreme violence.
“Even if a Canadian extremist does not immediately return, he or she is still a Canadian problem. No country can become an unwitting exporter of terrorism without suffering damage to its international image and relations.”
“The movements and travel of highly radicalized individuals pose a tremendous challenge. The Combating Terrorism Act passed in 2013 is a vital and welcome instrument when law enforcement has clear evidence of someone travelling for terrorist purposes, but the plans and intentions of such people are generally not obvious or publicized and thus tools to detect such travel are increasingly important.”
M. Coulombe reminds his readers that the safety of all Canadians is the highest priority of his organisation.
But perhaps our most important partner is the Canadian public, on whose co-operation we in the security community depend. Parents or community leaders who are worried that someone is being radicalized toward violence, or planning to travel for terrorist purposes, can be vitally important contributors to our collective effort.