Terrorism CSIS, January 21, 2013 (thanks to R)
Many Canadians may be surprised to learn that, with the exception of the United States, there are more terrorist groups active in Canada today than in any other country in the world. Their presence can be attributed to Canada's proximity to the United States, one of the world's pre-eminent terrorist targets, but also to the fact that Canada is an attractive place to live and do business because of its openness, and its respect for human rights and freedoms. With so many terrorist groups in Canada, people might wonder why the media are not reporting the occurrence of serious violence in Canada on a regular basis. While some Canadians have been victims of large-scale terrorist attacks-most notably in the 1985 bombing of an Air India flight from Toronto and the 2001 destruction of New York's twin towers-Canada, as a country, has not often been targeted specifically for attack. For this reason, many people have come to equate terrorism with the violence and tragic events that occur in foreign countries.
The most visible aspect of terrorist activity is physical violence; however, the absence of violence here at home does not mean the absence of terrorist activity. Most activities in Canada support actions elsewhere linked to homeland conflicts, and are relatively subtle in nature. These activities include:
Violence on Canadian Territory
- providing a convenient base for terrorist supporters and operatives;
- lobbying through front organizations;
- propagating hate and ideologies that incite and perpetuate violence;
- recruiting fighters for wars and conflicts abroad;
- procuring weapons and materiel;
- coercing and manipulating immigrant communities;
- facilitating transit to and from the United States and other countries, and
- other illegal activities.
The absence, to date, of terrorist violence on Canadian territory does not preclude the possibility of a terrorist attack. Canada's solidarity with the United States and other Western democracies in the fight against terrorism has rendered Canada a potential target. For this reason, the intelligence, law enforcement and security communities have been working in close collaboration to identify and apprehend terrorists and thus prevent a terrorist attack from ever occurring in Canada.
Identifying and apprehending terrorists is more challenging than ever. Sunni Islamic extremists such as the members of the Al Qaeda network, for example, are often well-educated in specialized fields such as computer science, biochemistry and engineering. They are security-conscious, well-funded and resourceful. They use sophisticated technology, enhanced by encryption and steganography (the concealment of the existence of messages), to communicate worldwide and to transfer funds electronically. Furthermore, they are masterful at exploiting the media to influence public opinion, and at using democratic institutions to further their cause or to avoid just penalty.
While CSIS dedicates most of its counter-terrorism resources to religious extremism, which the Government of Canada considers to be the most serious threat to the safety of Canadians, the Service also continues to monitor individuals and organizations that might be involved in other forms of terrorism, such as:
- state-sponsored terrorism;
- domestic terrorism (which includes the threat or the use of violence by groups advocating for issues such as the environment, anti-abortion, animal rights, anti-globalization, and white supremacy, and the dissemination of militia messages by groups in the United States); and
- secessionist violence.