International terrorism is precisely that, international. By definition, it seeks to promote political or other ends through violence, and crosses international boundaries to achieve its aims, from fundraising to attacking targets in foreign countries, to motivating citizens of other countries to commit acts of violence. Because of this essential fact, international terrorism in Canada is part of worldwide problem and one that requires the government of Canada and it’s various agencies, including intelligence and law enforcement, to collaborate with partners around the world. This may include direct collaboration with a foreign government or agency and also includes, in the majority of cases, collaboration through multinational institutions like the UN or NATO, as well as others like the Five Eyes group of Canada, the UK, the USA, New Zealand, and Australia. As Public Safety Canada’s website states, “Reflected throughout the Strategy is the fundamental belief that countering terrorism requires partnerships.” That means partnerships inside Canada and abroad and that requires education and sharing of information across a broad range of agencies. The international terrorist threat is a diverse and constantly changing one, and this sort of combined, collaborative effort is key.
Public Safety Canada defines a terrorist activity as, “an act or omission undertaken, inside or outside Canada, for a political, religious, or ideological purpose, that is intended to intimidate the public with respect to its security, including its economic security, or to compel a person, government, or organization (whether inside or outside Canada), from doing or refraining from doing any act, and that intentionally causes one of a number of specified forms of serious harm.” That’s a very broad range of potential activities that could be classified as a terrorist activity, and could include failing to report suspicious activity on the part of persons familiar to oneself.
Types of Terrorist Activity
Canada classifies international terrorist activity into 2 basic types:
Violent Sunni Islamist Extremism:
This is the leading threat nowadays to Canada’s security. Sunni Islamist extremism like Al Qaeda and ISIL have identified Canada as a direct target and ISIL in particular has encouraged individuals through social media to participate in violent acts.
All Other Groups
Other extremist groups are also considered terrorist groups by the Canadian government given that all of them have used violence for political or other ends:
- The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or LTTE: Founded in 1976 and based on Marxist-Leninist liberation ideology, they carried out their first armed assault in 1983 leading to 26 years of conflict, including bombings, murders, kidnappings and other violence until their military defeat by Sri Lankan forces in 2009. A small hard core escaped to India and some were arrested later in Kuala Lumpur and others in Norway. Previous Liberal governments of Canada have been accused of turning a blind eye to the presence of LTTE members or supporters in Canada.
- Hamas: Founded in 1987 during the First Intifada as an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, with the goal of establishing an Islamic state in Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. They have launched attacks against Israel using rockets and suicide bombers They have also been accused of using children and women as human shields during their operations. In April 2014, the International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy, or IRFAN, a charity with alleged ties to Hamas, was declared a terrorist organization by the Canadian government which launched an RCMP investigation of its financing activities.
ETA graffiti [Public Domain]
- ETA: Founded in 1959, the Basque paramilitary separatist organization has been involved in a violent campaign for Basque independence since 1968. It has killed over 800 people, injured thousands, and been involved in many kidnappings. Its bombing campaign has mirrored the IRA’s in many ways. Several ceasefires have been declared since the late ‘80s and the current ceasefire which began in 2011 seems to be holding. In 2007, 2 suspected members of ETA were arrested in Canada in Vancouver and Quebec.
- Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia or FARC: Founded in 1964 as the military wing of the Colombian Communist Party, they have engaged in a violent quasi-military campaign against the Colombian government and security forces. They are funded by kidnappings, extortion, and narcotics. While countries like Colombia, Canada, the US, Chile, New Zealand, and the European Union classify them as terrorist, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, and Ecuador do not. Peace talks with the Colombian government are underway in Havana, Cuba.
- Hezbollah: Founded in 1982 as an armed Shiite group with Iranian funding, they have launched attacks around the Middle East and as far afield as Bulgaria, attacking Israeli citizens on a tour. They are also involved in Lebanese politics and are allies of the Syrian government which is itself involved in a bloody conflict with ISIL. Hamas has been accused of seeking out Canadians with dual citizenships in order to use their Canadian passport for safe passage around the world.
- Sikh extremism caused the worst terrorist act in Canadian history, the downing of Air India Flight 182 in 1985, which claimed 329 lives. Militant Sikh nationalists, seeking an independent state called Kalistan, escalated their violence in the mid ‘80s after an Indian military operation at the Sikh Golden Temple, and assassinated Indian Prime Minister Indira Ghandi in 1984. The next year a bomb was planted on the Air India Flight by Babbar Khalsa, a Sikh militant group. Inderjit Singh Reyat, a Canadian national, is the only person to have been convicted of the bombing.
In response to the evolving threat of terrorism around the world, and to Canadians in particular, the government has developed a multi-faceted strategy called: Building Resilience Against Terrorism. It is comprised of six basic principles:
- Building resilience: this involves creating a society in which individuals and groups are able to withstand extreme ideologies and challenge those who promote them.
- Terrorism is a crime and will be prosecuted: Canada aims to support the prosecution of those involved in terrorist activities wherever they occur, and will collaborate with foreign governments in this matter.
- Adherence to the rule of law: This recognizes the rule of law as the cornerstone of peace, order, and good government. That means all security and intelligence organizations in Canada must abide by the rule of law when involved in counter-terrorism activities.
- Cooperation & Partnerships: This includes all level of government as well as between different federal agencies. Seamless information sharing between security intelligence agencies and law enforcement is also vital.
- Proportionate & Measured Response: Canada’s approach to terrorism will always be proportionate to the threat.
- A flexible and forward looking approach: This means anticipating how threats will evolve over time and focusing on prevention by addressing factors that make individuals susceptible to violent extremist ideologies.
From this a 4-element Strategy has been developed:
- Prevent individuals from engaging in terrorist activities.
- Detect the activities of individuals or organizations that may present a terrorist threat.
- Deny terrorists the means and the opportunities to carry out their plans.
- Respond proportionately, rapidly, and in an organized manner to terrorist activities.