A couple of years ago I went out to my car, which I had left on the street in front of my house and found a ticket on the windshield. For the record, overnight parking is allowed on my street, which is located in a subdivision of Ottawa. I could not understand why I had been ticketed so I went to the traffic division of City Hall to ask/protest. A helpful clerk explained that I had broken a by-law in that the passenger-side tires of my car were partially on the strip of lawn that rests between the sidewalk and the street (I had parked this way to prevent any impeding of traffic).
Now I had no idea this was an actual by-law and expressed my surprise to the clerk. He was actually very nice and said he would halve the fine (from $50 to $25) since I took the time to come in and discuss my offence. He just as easily could have said that ignorance of the law is no defence.
So, why don’t we treat Canadians who left to fight for Islamic State (IS) and other terrorists in a similar way? And by that I don’t mean cut their penalty in half!
I am getting tired of all these people who willingly and deliberately left our fair land to hook up with terrorists, were caught, and are now wailing for the government to rescue them and bring them home. I am tired of the ‘excuses’ they proffer: I just went to do humanitarian work; I just went out of curiosity; I just went out of sense of religious duty; I just went to right wrong; I did not know I broke the law (one guy actually said this!); I just went for (fill in the blank___).
The bottom line is that they went to join a terrorist group, one which raped little girls, threw gays off buildings, beheaded journalists, burned people alive and took part in countless human rights atrocities. I frankly don’t care about their post-hoc justification for their actions, their so-called contrition or their realisation that they made a mistake. They deserve to be punished for the simple fact that they left Canada and ended up with IS or some other jihadi group.
But what about the evidence? Many analysts, including me, have long pointed out the difficulty in amassing enough court-worthy information in Syria or Iraq or Afghanistan or Somalia or…to prosecute these individuals in Canada. These challenges are legion and the government does not want to go to trial and have the case thrown out on account of lack of evidence. So what is to be done?
It’s simple actually: charge them with leaving the country to join a terrorist group. Here’s what the relevant sections of the Canadian Criminal Code have to say on leaving Canada to join a terrorist group (edited for length):
Leaving Canada to facilitate terrorist activity
83.191 Everyone who leaves or attempts to leave Canada for the purpose of committing an act outside Canada that, if committed in Canada, would be an offence under subsection 83.19(1) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than 14 years.
Leaving Canada to commit offence for terrorist group
83.201 Everyone who leaves or attempts to leave Canada, for the purpose of committing an act outside Canada that, if committed in Canada, would be an indictable offence under this for the benefit of, at the direction of or in association with a terrorist group is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than 14 years.
Leaving Canada to commit offence that is terrorist activity
83.202 Everyone who leaves or attempts to leave Canada for the purpose of committing an act outside Canada that, if committed in Canada, would be an indictable offence (which) constitutes a terrorist activity is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than 14 years.
I think you get the point. While it may be difficult to prove specific acts of violence committed while ‘over there’, it is often much simpler to prove that the individual in question did indeed join a given group. Why? Because these idiots often brag of their success in evading the detection of CSIS or the RCMP and post photos of themselves brandishing IS flags or extolling the virtues of living under the so-called ‘Caliphate’ or rationalising why they did what they did. Successful prosecutions should not be too hard in this respect I would hope.
While we are at it, raise the sentence for this offence to 25 years ‘pour encourager les autres‘, i.e. to act as a deterrent for the next wave of morons considering leaving to do something equally heinous. Maybe some will think twice and change their travel plans.
If we can charge them with other crimes then great. But we must at a minimum charge them with membership in a terrorist organisation. Anything less – reintegration, counselling, ‘deradicalisation’, etc. (all good ideas by the way, just not right away) – is an insult to the memories of the victims. These deserve more and the terrorists deserve to pay for their crimes.