Is Right Wing terrorism on the rise in Canada?

Twice in the last week I have read articles about the prevalence of right-wing extremism in Canada.  A study by two Simon Fraser University students claimed that there are 100 such groups “active” in this country (see a story on that report here) while a column in The Hill Times on February 15 says that 59% of “lone wolf” attacks over the past 15 years were perpetrated by these kinds of extremists (that story is here but you have to have a subscription or pay for it – sorry!).

Have I missed something here?  Have I been asleep at the switch?

I don’t think so.  It is time for a reality check.

Look, there is no question that we have right-wing and xenophobic groups in this country.  And there is no doubt that some of these groups could become very dangerous.

But to pretend that right-wing terrorism presents a significant threat to Canada today is a gross exaggeration.  The single greatest threat at this time is that of individuals and cells radicalised along the Al Qaeda (or Islamic State) narrative and who seek to go abroad to fight and kill or choose to remain here to carry out acts of terrorism.  In addition, there is little likelihood that this menace will dissipate any time soon.  The defeat or destruction of any one group that espouses this hateful ideology will merely be replaced by the next group which embraces the ideology.  To state that right-wing hate represents a greater danger than Islamist extremism is a misconstrual of facts (NB which “lone wolf attacks” does Ms. Elghawaby in The Hill Times mean?  I am not aware of any).

Let us review recent history.  Here are the major plots in Canada since 9/11

  • Momin Khawaja (Ottawa) and the fertiliser plot in London
  • the Toronto 18
  • Project SAMOSSA (Ottawa)
  • VIA Passenger plot
  • Victoria Legislature plot
  • Killing of WO Patrice Vincent
  • Killing of Corporal Nathan Cirillo

How many of these major plots were planned by right-wing extremists?  Precisely zero.  How many by Islamist extremists?  100 percent.  When you add in the more than 100 Canadians who have left to join groups like IS and those who died in terrorist attacks abroad (Iraq, Somalia, Algeria, Saudi Arabia) it all adds up to a crystal clear conclusion: those inspired by the extremist AQ/IS narrative are the dominant majority on the terrorist front.

So what do we do about Justin Bourque, the killer of 4 RCMP members in Moncton, NB in June 2014?  Wasn’t that a RW attack?  I have no idea.  Yes, he had anti-authority and pro-gun messages in social media but that alone does not make him a terrorist.

Look, there has been a rise in Islamophobic and anti-immigrant rhetoric and we have seen a mosque in Peterborough firebombed in the wake of the November attack in Paris.  And yes, Canadians (government, society, citizens) have a duty to call out this hatred and shout it down.  And yes it could morph into something more serious.

But let us be accurate here.  We do NOT have the extreme right and anti-immigrant political parties that countries such as Hungary and Denmark do.  We have NOT seen attacks on migrant centres.  We have NOT seen the kinds of wacko occupations like the recent one in Oregon.  We are not on the brink of social decay where citizen is pitted against citizen based on religion, race or ethnicity.  Yes we have blowhard Ezra Levant but let us not give him the attention he craves.

We have a duty to be vigilant.  But we also have a duty to get things right (no pun intended).

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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