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Feature Focus 2014: Responding to Violent Extremism and Travel Abroad for Terrorism-related Purposes

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Ministerial Foreword

In 2013, two young men from southern Ontario who had embraced an extremist ideology travelled abroad to become involved with a terrorist group. Both died while carrying out a deadly attack in the Algerian desert.

Canadians asked how two seemingly normal individuals could choose to engage in such terrible violence. Reports also emerged of other individuals with Canadian connections travelling to become involved in terrorism-related activities in places like Somalia and Syria. Some of these extremist travellers are presumed dead.

Canadians reject the use of terrorism in all its forms, no matter where it takes place. Countering terrorism at home and abroad also remains a top priority for the Government. Last year, Canadian authorities arrested two men for allegedly planning a terrorist attack in Ontario, and a man and a woman for allegedly planning an attack in British Columbia. Those cases are now before the courts. And, as this Report was being prepared, Mohamed Hersi became the first Canadian to be convicted of an attempt to travel abroad to join a terrorist group, al-Shabaab, in Somalia. As recently unfolding events in Iraq in 2014 demonstrate, consistently monitoring developments in the terrorist threat remains critical to guiding the Canadian response. The Government continues to act on many fronts, including listing entities like the Syria-based Jabhat al-Nusra as a terrorist entity under Canada's Criminal Code and supporting capacity-building initiatives abroad to strengthen global security.

I am honoured to present the 2014 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada. It follows last year's Report and seeks to keep Canadians up to date about terrorism issues facing the country. This year's Report looks at terrorism developments in 2013 and early 2014 that matter to Canadians and how the Government has responded on their behalf. It builds on the dialogue with Canadians that the Government began in 2012 in its document, Building Resilience Against Terrorism: Canada's Counter-terrorism Strategy.

I have asked Canadian departments and agencies to include in this year's Report a special “Feature Focus 2014” that outlines the Government's response to violent extremism and travel abroad for terrorism-related purposes. More than a dozen departments and agencies have helped in preparing that response, reflecting the breadth and complexity of departmental and agency involvement with terrorism issues.

Violent extremism and extremist travellers are critical issues. Parliament enacted new tools to address these issues in the Combating Terrorism Act. The Government will continue to address these issues by working with our communities, law enforcement agencies, academics, the private sector and other individuals and groups in Canada.

Terrorism remains the leading threat to Canada's national security. Our Government will continue to take all appropriate action to counter terrorist threats to Canada, its citizens and its interests around the world.

The Honourable Steven Blaney

P.C. M.P.

Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Executive Summary

Canadian “extremist travellers” have gone abroad to participate in terrorism-related activities.

The phenomenon of individuals leaving their countries of residence to engage in foreign conflicts is not new. Canada and many other countries have experienced this for decades. However, the need to address the threat these extremist travellers pose both to home countries and to the countries to which they travel has become more pressing with their participation in conflicts such as Syria, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan. As of early 2014, the Government was aware of more than 130 individuals with Canadian connections who were abroad and who were suspected of terrorism-related activities. These included involvement in training, fundraising, promoting radical views and even planning terrorist violence. Some extremist travellers remain abroad. Others have returned to Canada, while still others are presumed dead.

Canada has seen a small but notable number of extremist travellers, but the large majority of extremist travellers originate from non-Western countries, particularly countries in North Africa and the Middle

East. Regardless of where they originate, many of these individuals are exploiting conflicts to engage in terrorism-related activities. Syria has become the primary destination for these extremist travellers. Canadians were both perpetrators and victims of terrorist attacks in Africa in 2013. The threat from terrorists based in Afghanistan and Pakistan remains, but there has been a steady flow of extremist travellers leaving this region for other countries.

Terrorism continues to threaten Canada, Canadians and Canadian interests.

In 2013, Canada was affected by terrorism-related incidents that occurred both at home and abroad. Four individuals were arrested on terrorism-related charges in Canada in 2013. These cases are proceeding through the courts. Also, the involvement of individual Canadians in terrorism-related activity abroad prompted the Government to examine the evolving nature of the extremist traveller threat and the appropriate Government response. As a result, the 2014 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada includes a Feature Focus on the Government's response to violent extremism and travel abroad for terrorism-related purposes. It also shows how the 2012 document, Building Resilience Against Terrorism: Canada's Counter-terrorism Strategy, helps ensure the safety and security of Canadians.

Responding to Violent Extremism and Travel Abroad for Terrorism-related Purposes.

The Government works closely with law enforcement partners to prevent violent extremism by building prevention capacity in local communities. Where appropriate, this includes targeted early intervention with individuals who have not yet crossed the threshold to violent extremist activity. For extremist travellers, a High Risk Travel Case Management Group examines individual cases to tailor the best response. In 2013, Parliament enacted legislation that created four new offences intended to deter travel abroad for terrorism-related purposes. In the past year, the Government listed six entities under the Criminal Code as being associated with terrorism. The Government also engaged in a number of long-term projects such as the Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security's dialogue on security-related matters, Canada's Multiculturalism Program, the Kanishka Project's support for academic research, and efforts to enhance border security through Canada's Beyond the Border Action Plan. The Government also worked with international partners to counter terrorism-related activity around the world, supporting a variety of capacity-building initiatives in a number of countries.

The Government will continue to take all appropriate action to counter terrorist threats to Canada, its citizens and its global interests.


Understanding how the global threat environment affects the terrorist threat to Canada, Canadians and Canadian interests enables the Government to counter these threats more effectively.

This document, the Government's 2014 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada, examines major international and domestic terrorism-related developments during 2013 and early 2014. It highlights two alleged terrorist plots that resulted in arrests in Canada. It also describes several cases where individuals left Canada to participate in terrorism-related activities abroad. These observations draw on consultations with non-government partners, including Canadian community leaders, academics and those in the private sector. In many cases, the 2014 Public Report explains further developments relating to issues discussed in the 2013 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada.

The 2014 Public Report also contains a Feature Focus detailing Government actions in 2013 to respond to violent extremism and travel abroad for terrorism-related purposes.

The 2014 Public Report represents the combined efforts of several Canadian federal departments and agencies. It fulfills a Government commitment made in the February 2012 document, Building Resilience Against Terrorism: Canada's Counter-terrorism Strategy, to update Canadians on the terrorist threat. In accordance with their individual mandates, many departments and agencies also provide separate updates to Canadians on various aspects of the threat.

Terrorism Statistics for 2013

According to United States Department of State Country Reports on Terrorism 2013, more than 9,700 terrorist incidents in 93 countries were reported in 2013. These incidents claimed more than 18,000 lives. In addition, about 33,000 people were injured and nearly 3,000 were abducted or held hostage. Some 57 percent of all reported incidents occurred in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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