Does Canada need to do more to fight homegrown terrorism?

On Cross Country Checkup: homegrown terrorism.

The recent arrest of three Canadians on charges related to terrorism has raised concerns that Canada has now become fertile ground for breeding terrorists.

What do you think? Does Canada need to do more to fight homegrown terrorism?

With guest host Andrew Nichols.

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Guest host Andrew Nichols' introduction to the September 5, 2010 program

Our question today: "Does Canada need to do more to fight home grown terrorism?"

The recent arrest of three Canadians on charges related to terrorism has raised concerns that Canada is becoming fertile ground for homegrown terrorists. In the summer of 2006, eighteen men were arrested on terrorism related charges. And at the time, many thought that the police must have made a mistake.

It seemed too outlandish that Canadians would plot to blow up and kill their fellow citizens in the name of an international jihadist ideology. This is Canada after all - the place people come to get away from extremist politics.

Well, the latest arrests have reminded Canadians that this country has been on Al Qaeda's hitlist for several years. And while police and security forces are working to ensure that nothing becomes of it, others are working to make it a reality.

Whether these arrests turn into convictions, and whether there is a connection to the forces of international terrorism still remains to be proven in court. Of the Toronto 18, eleven were eventually convicted and sentenced.

Meanwhile, the case has kicked-off a discussion about how susceptible Canada is to homegrown terrorism, and about what measures can be taken to steer young people away from extremist options.

The Muslim community has been blamed for not doing more to prevent the spread of jihadist ideas. And the community at large has been alternately blamed for singling out Muslims as having a greater responsibility in this battle.

Some Muslims say they are being demonized through guilt by association. Others counter that the jihadist ideology is based on faulty reading of Islamic texts and moderate Muslims are best-suited to lead the fight against it.

Canada's Minister of Public Security Vic Toews warned about a growing radicalization in immigrant communities and called on the communities to be vigilant and report suspicious behaviour. The opposition called it fear-mongering. Civil liberties groups warned of the danger in relinquishing basic freedoms in an attempt to achieve greater security.

We want to hear your view.

Do the recent arrests make you worry more about terrorist attacks, planned and executed by fellow Canadians? Or, do you feel that the greater danger is to overreact?

Should steps be taken to prevent extremism in local Muslim communities? Or is it unfair to place the responsibility so narrowly?

How should Canada respond to the threat of homegrown terrorism?

Canadians like to say that this is the place where multiculturalism works. Is there a danger that this issue could create divisions among Canadians?

Do the arrests mean that there is a growing threat to all Canadians, or are they proof the system is working as it should?

Our question today: "Does Canada need to do more to fight home grown terrorism?"

I'm Andrew Nichols ...on CBC Radio One ...and on Sirius satellite radio channel 137 ...this is Cross Country Checkup.


  • Michel Juneau-Katsuya
    Former senior intelligence officer and manager at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service

  • Tarek Fatah
    Author, and co-founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress

  • Grace Pastine
    Litigation Director, BC Civil Liberties Association

  • Sayyid Amiruddin
    Imam who runs a 12-step program for de-radicalization, developed in response to the arrests of the Toronto 18. Also vice-president of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada

  • Wesley Wark
    Security and intelligence expert from the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto



No! We already have the security systems and persons to do the job. Utilize what we have and we will be OK.

B. Leonard

The only real danger Canadians face is not only in overreacting to the arrests but also in ignoring Harper's increased effort to instill fear of the bogeyman in Canadians.

When he was up north, he announced that two Russian jets had infringed on Canadian soil. I did not believe the news and recent events cast doubt on that announcement.

As far as I'm concerned, the real terrorists are Harper and his gang who, incrementally, are turning Canadians into frightened, fingerpointing citizens who will tolerate any infringement of human rights and abuse by our police for a modicum of security from a threat which is largely of this government's making.

Frank A. Pelaschuk
Alexandria, Ontario

The recent terror arrests have not increased my anxiety about a possible increase in violence here. It only proved how well CSIS keeps track of people who intend to do harm. These guys were the last people that would be suspected, and are such a small minority in the Muslim community. Religious fundamentalism is a much bigger problem that touches many more lives and produces insanity like Jihad. Fundamentalism and its brand of blind faith are conversation stoppers. If we cannot work out our differences by talking things out, an escalation to violence is just a matter of time when personal religious beliefs are involved.

Keep Canada secular and we will be able to manage problems within or between communities through compromise, reason and empathy. People come here to escape totalitarian religious governments, don't forget.

Brendan Collins
Calgary, Alberta

Home grown terrorism is a direct outgrowth of Canada's participation in a foreign war. The best thing that Canada can do to prevent this threat is to remove itself from the occupation of Afganistan and stay out of such conflicts in future.

A. T. Jenkins
Kingston Ontario

As a former Minister of Justice, Vic Toews should know that in Canada anyone accused of anything is innocent until proved guilty. His comments on this latest case and his call for Islamic communities across the country to be on the qui vivre for "suspicious activity" is nothing short of fear mongering and is inexcusable, moreso when it is a Minister of the Crown preying on fear.

The three men arrested recently may indeed have been involved in subversive activities, but we won't know for sure until the facts come out in open court and this 'trial by media and rumour' is ridiculous and just adds fuel to the fear fire.

As for whether or not CSIS/RCMP are doing a good job in this area of investigation, it would seem that they are, since the arrests have been made before any damage was done. On the other hand, I'd like to know what they have on the fourth detainee, because the only reason they have for detaining him is what seems to be spurious domestic assault charges! If they've been investigating these four men for at least a year, why haven't they got any actual terrorism charges to level against him?

I have Muslim friends who have come under threat by non-Muslims, based solely on their religion, and we need to guard against that knee jerk kind of reaction by a public that believes that the extremist rhetoric of fundamentalist Islam is based on teachings of the Q'ran, when in fact the extremists spout their hatred based on the Hadith!

We need to educate ourselves and that's our best defence.

Rene Jamieson
Winnipeg, Manitoba

While home grown terrorism is not new to Canada (recall the October Crisis), this is not a case of people attempting to defend an ideology coupled with a homeland and culture, as was the case with the FLQ. Yet this current situation too is a ideological struggle which can also be interpreted as a struggle to protect culture against Western dominance and control.

There has been a great deal of military meddling and devastation meted out by Western countries to countries and communities which have the misfortune to own vast resources, and which happen to be predominantly Islamic. This has taken place throughout the 20th century and into this one. Terrorism is a response to something - however misguided it may be - and it can arise when all else has seemingly failed, or is taking too long to provide relief. Young, passionate people deeply disturbed by injustice and wanting a cause and a quick solution are perfectly primed for recruitment to terrorist organisations.

Also, in Canada of late, one sees a growing divisiveness and intolerance nurtured, so far as I can see, by this federal government and the mainstream media, a government which also practices intolerance and divisiveness even in its blatant inability to work in a parliamentary situation as a minority government. What do we expect to happen? In many ways the birds are coming home to roost. I for one would like to know why this government promotes fear and divisiveness over unity?

Beth Carruthers
Victoria, British Columbia

The upsurge in terrorist activities has been entirely predictable to anyone who has noted the shifts in Canada's Middle Eastern policies since 2002. Although Jean Chr├ętien very wisely kept this country out of the Iraq fiasco, the decision to send combat troops to Afghanistan, whatever its justification, has inflamed passions of Islamists who resent all incursions of foreigners into Muslim lands. Moreover, Islamic terrorist groups have made clear time and again that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land has been a major incentive for their attacks on western countries.

In the face of this has been Canada's move from a relatively even stance on Palestine to growing support of Israel, beginning under Paul Martin and strengthened under Stephen Harper to the position that Israel can do no wrong. Its globally condemned attack on a Gaza-bound humanitarian aid ship in international waters last spring was not denounced by Canada. Even the killing of Canadian UN monitor Paeta Hess-von Kruedner during the 2006 Lebanon war, which military investigators found was due to a deliberate attack by Israeli forces, provoked not a whimper of protest from our government. What is hugely worrying is that we are now almost certainly firmly in the cross-hairs of experienced foreign-based Islamic terrorists who will have a much greater likelihood of mounting a major successful attack. Only a marked change of our Middle East policies may deter such an attack.

Stewart Brown
Peterborough, Ontario

Thanks to Tareq Fatah. He is absolutely right on. Canada need people like him to say it as it is. Enough of this political correctness, let say it as it is.

Jason R.
Toronto, Ontario

Fundamentalism comes in many guises. At University, I witnessed a christain fundamentalist become visibly excited by Rennaissance paintings depicting massacres of Pagans by Christians. Yes, all fundamentalism is evil.

Regarding education: I agree that education is important. A liberal education ideally opens up dialogue about important ideas, such as those we discuss here, among people of varing backgrounds, at the university level.

My questions: The early years of education are very important in building character. What type of early education do these 'homegrown' terrorists recieve? Should we promote a liberal education earlier, and for all?

Cathy B.
Vancouver Island, British Columbia

I am more concerned than ever from listening to the program so far. Both Mohammed and Tarik were very passionate about what is actually going on with regards to the active cells in this country and the program of recruitment. I would think that both of these men do know what is going on. They were very passionate and sincere and I think that we should all be alerted to what they are saying. I can totally understand what Tarik is saying about politicians not wanting to do anything because of "votes" He is right about mediocre politicians. It is very frightening to hear what is really going on.

Koreen Scott
Ottawa, Ontario

Canada is wearing the T-Shirt saying "I hate Islam" this T-shirt is US made. Why does Canada need to be in Afghanistan? It's the US. Why Canada is facing Terrorism? Because of the civilian bombings in Afghanistan. A peace loving nation is being drown into a bloody war that the US is losing. Mohamed Ibrahim
Montreal, Quebec

Just caught your chat with Tarek Fatah. Earlier in the week I read the excellent column he co-wrote with Salma Siddiqui in which it was mentioned that 'young Islamists in campuses across Canada are distributing free booklets titled Towards Understanding Islam...' and it was noted that the author of this booklet encourages Muslims to lauch jihad against non-Muslims.

Why aren't the young Islamists, the fellow in downtown Toronto, & others who are handing out this garbage charged with distributing hate literature? The Danish cartoons seem pretty tame by comparison. Encouraging violence & the killing of non-Muslims is right up there with espousing genocide. It's no better than white supremacists who believe that so-called Aryans are superior to all other races.

Trish Kotow
Calgary, Alberta

Bravo Mr. Fatah. Remember, he is a Muslim telling it like it is.

It's revolting and frightening too. When will our politicians respond and act. When will the journalists begin to treat this issue appropriately.

Daniel Palladini
Montreal, Quebec

I completely agree with the Korean veteran about how Canada is becoming a war mongering country by following the Americans into not only Afghanistan but like he said, also Bosnia, and now we are going to make some big company in the US richer by buying 16 billion dollars of fighter planes which we don't need.

Gene McDonnell
Kamloops, British Columbia

Canada does need to stand up and say that Islamic terrorists will not be allow to operate on Canadian soil and will be caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Politicians need to speak up or make clear where their parties stand on the issue.

I think that westerners are very blase about the extent of the violence undertaken by extremists in other countries. We would not tolerate acid being thrown at women in Canada. Why are we not at least verbally standing up to the use of violence to gain power and influence.

Multi culturalism can only succeed when clear boundaries are drawn for all citizens and a clear picture of just what sort of a civil society we as Canadians want defined. Defining our identity is the first step in confronting jihad by letting those interested in that sort of behavior know it will not be tolerated.

To the "why" question the one answer that is seldom given is the growing disenchantment with the consumer society. People need to have something to believe in and commit themselves to and jihad is the "sexy" choice for young men is the absence of any real positive alternatives in western culture.


Canada should not be in Afghanistan, killing and making ourselves targets by using a style of war, garrisons and patrols, that was appropriate 200 years ago. We should leave immediately and also abdicate NATO, formed for war. We should do everything to protect ourselves and league with more advanced peaceful countries, e.g Scandinavia, so that we do not get sucked into unresolvable crazy religious conflicts (that we cannot affect!).

William Lawrence
Victoria, British Columbia

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