A Liberal MP wants the House public safety committee to launch a full-scale parliamentary inquiry into the national security threat posed by individuals who come back to Canada after becoming involved with overseas terrorist entities, particularly the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or ISIS.

In a letter sent to Public Safety Minister Steve Blaney on Friday, Wayne Easter — who serves as his party's public safety critic — points to the latest report on terrorist threats to Canada, which was released last week.

That report states that, "as of early 2014, the government knew of more than 130 individuals with Canadians connections who were abroad and who were suspected of supporting terrorism-related activities of various groups," as well as "80 individuals who have returned to Canada after travel abroad for a variety of suspected terrorism-related purposes."

As Easter points out, the report also includes a reference to the "intervention program" being developed by the RCMP, which, in its words "mobilizes community resources and local law enforcement to recognize and address individuals at the risk of becoming radicalized."

'Critical and immediate concern'

"Like other Canadians, I have heard recent reports by the CBC about Canadians participating in the actions of ISIS in Syria and Iraq," Easter writes. 

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney's department recently released a report that estimates 80 individuals who have fought with foreign extremists have returned to Canada. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

"I see such participation as being of critical and immediate concern."

To that end, he believes the public safety committee would be able to provide an "open, public process" to explore the RCMP's efforts to combat radicalization, by providing MPs with the opportunity to hear from the minister, as well as the heads of Canada's national security agencies "and perhaps others."

A sampling of the "important questions" that could be addressed, in Easter's view:

  • What are the key elements of the intervention program that is being developed?
  • Why is the program only being developed now?
  • What previous efforts have, and have not, been successful in recognizing and dealing with individuals at risk of becoming radicalized?

He also points to the "aggressive campaign" against such activities announced by the British government earlier this week, which would include legislation to allow police to confiscate passports, and block suspected British terrorists at the border, among other measures.

"At this point, I am not proposing that initiatives similar to those being implemented in the United Kingdom are required in Canada," Easter notes.

"Nevertheless, I believe that Canadians have the right to be informed about the Canadian government's views about these initiatives."

Easter's letter stops short of including a formal request for the committee to be recalled to discuss his motion to study the issue — which would be put to the chair, not the minister, and would require the support of at least two other members.

Minister 'always welcomes opportunity to appear at committee'

Liberal spokeswoman Kate Purchase said Easter's motion is on notice at committee, and will be dealt with when the House returns.

A spokesman for Blaney pointed out that committees are "masters of their own business."

"Minister Blaney always welcomes the opportunity to appear at committee when invited," Jason Tamming told CBC News.

"We are closely monitoring the situation with the Islamic State," he added.

As for the concerns raised in Easter's letter, Tamming pointed to the government's recent passage of a law to tighten Canadian citizenship rules and strip Canadian citizenship from dual nationals who engage in acts of terrorism or fight the Canadian Armed Forces.

"The Liberals and NDP voted against this bill," he noted.

Read the letter from Liberal MP Wayne Easter to Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney

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