The world may need more Canada, but not more Canadian terrorists

Even if terrorist attacks are rare in Canada, some Canadian extremists do elect to strike abroad. What should we do with them?

Even if terrorist attacks are rare in Canada, some Canadian extremists elect to strike abroad.

Let me get this out right at the beginning. I am a very proud Canadian. I love this country and could not imagine living anywhere else. That does not mean I necessarily liked those annoying Molson Beer ads featuring what is known as the “I am Canadian” rant a few years back.

Canadian nationalism tends to be a little understated, unlike that of our southern neighbours, the US. Or maybe that is just what we tell ourselves. There is after all another campaign which has inundated the airwaves of late and that is a little overdone.

I am referring to the “The world needs more Canada” – whatever that is supposed to mean. Hell, even former US President Barack Obama told everyone “The world needs more Canada”!

OK, OK I get it.

We like to parade all the good that is Canada. And that is a good thing I suppose. We do have a lot to offer others, including our stable democracy, our decent (albeit not perfect) social systems, and the incredible natural beauty of this vast land.

One thing we should NOT be sharing, however, is terrorism. While it is true that we have been thankfully spared the level of terrorist acts many others are scourged with, we have, on occasion, exported terrorism to other countries.

While it is true that we have been spared the level of terrorist acts others are scourged with, we have exported terrorism to other countries.

A case in point was featured in a news story this week. A Bangladeshi court sentenced seven men to death for their role in a terrorist attack on a cafe in Dhaka on July 1, 2016. Twenty people, including several foreigners, were killed in that incident.

The mastermind of that act was a Canadian, Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury, a resident of Windsor, Ontario (four hours west of Toronto). He was later killed in a raid by Bangladeshi counter terrorism forces.

The world needs more Canada?

Alas, Mr. Chowdhury was not the first, and will likely not be the last, Canadian jihadi to sow death abroad. Here is a sampling of others who opted to conduct attacks ‘fi sabil Allah’

  • Xristos Katsiroubas and Ali Medlej (from my hometown, London, Ontario) participated in an attack on a gas plant in Algeria in January 2013 in which forty were killed;
  • Salman Ashrafi left a good job in Calgary to commit a suicide attack for Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq in November 2013; and
  • Mahad Ali Dhore was part of an attack on Somalia’s Supreme Court in April 2013.

I think you get my point. Canadians have joined Islamist extremist groups abroad and caused death and suffering. This is unacceptable.

Canadian Criminal Code

It is an offence under the Canadian Criminal Code to leave Canada to join a terrorist group. Those intending to do so must be stopped and charged. At times this is difficult if the person(s) did not come up on the radar of the security services. Then again, on occasion when security services do their jobs and charges are laid courts have dismissed them (stupidly in my opinion): a recent case in Montreal is a good example of justice NOT served.

So yes, let us share all the good that Canada has to offer. But not our jihadis.

Canada has been abuzz lately on what to do with ‘Jihadi Jack’, a UK-Canadian who joined ISIS. What should we do with him and other ‘foreign fighters’?

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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