The good, the bad and the ugly – part one

I’m no fan of spaghetti westerns and the 1966 film starring Clint Eastwood among others has nothing to do with terrorism.  It’s just that I can think of no better phrase to describe the interim report issued by the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence on countering the terrorist threat in Canada (see the full report here).

The report contains 25 recommendations and was written after hearing testimony from over 50 witnesses, including representatives from Canadian Muslim communities, leading academics and high-ranking officials from CSIS and the RCMP.  These recommendations span a range of legal and policy domains and reflect the wide variety of viewpoints – often contradictory – from the witnesses.

Some of the recommendations make a lot of sense – those are the “good” ones (I even find a few great).  Some are bizarre and probably useless – I’ll call those “bad”.   A few are down right ludicrous and counter productive – those would be the “ugly” ones.

So, for what it is worth, here’s where I would put the 25.

#1 – good  – make it a criminal offence to be a member of a terrorist organisation  (no brainer actually – wait isn’t this already illegal?)

#2 – bad – the terminology is sweeping and inaccurate (what is the “ideology spread by the global Islamist fundamentalist movement”??  Aren’t we supposed to be worried about terrorists?)

#3 – really bad – why are “women” “at risk communities”?  And this after the report cautions against “stigmitisation”.  Maybe we can reach out to women in hijabs – oh wait, we can’t do that.

#4 and #5 – really good, except that we are already doing awareness raising on multiple levels.  But the “hot line” will be a challenge once the government realises how many nut jobs will call in with ridiculous concerns (my neighbour wears a hijab!).

#6 – good, except that any counter narrative can’t be government-led.  Besides, we should be focusing on alternative and not counter narratives.

#7 – good, but ineffective.  Banning radicals is a great idea (once we figure out what a “radical” is) but will not solve the problem.  Anyone heard of this new technology called the “internet”?  In person presence not needed.

#8 – great idea and coordination with the provinces should have been done all along.

#9 – really, really ugly.  The government has NO ROLE in training imams or any other spiritual leader for that matter.  End of story.  Furthermore, why not help train priests, ministers and rabbis as well?     Besides, the recommendation implies that radical imams are a huge issue when in fact they are not in Canada.  This recommendation, if implemented, will damage relations between Muslim communities and the government irrevocably.

#10 and #11 – good, but…  Listing organisations with “links to terrorism” (again a pretty flimsy phrase) is great, but there had better be an iron-clad case before going public.  And what are the “persons responsible”?  Boards of directors?  Accountants? Donors?

#12 – great, but…  Again it comes down to language.  We had better have a very good definition for “glorification of terrorism”.

(to be continued in next blog)

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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