Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says Canada isn't losing the battle against homegrown terrorism after a CBC News investigation that identified two Canadians involved in a deadly attack in Algeria.
Kenney, speaking in Vancouver Tuesday, said he couldn't comment directly on the cases because the RCMP are still investigating.
"No, absolutely not," he said when asked if he was worried Canada is losing the battle.
"I think actually our record is very sound on this. We have seen violence in many western European countries and in the United States being inflicted by people who were radicalized in those countries, many of them born and raised in those Western countries."
Kenney says Canadians should be "vigilant," noting that Canada is not immune to domestic radicalization, but said Canadians should also be grateful they haven't faced the kind of violent attacks born out of homegrown radicalization that some European countries have.
"There are a lot of incidents that don't make it to the news where the RCMP and CSIS are preventing or identifying problems before they get too serious. And frequently, for example, when information is obtained about perhaps a young Canadian who is on the path towards radicalization, often there's an intervention. Often the police will go and visit his family or perhaps his spiritual leader, and say, this young person is going in the wrong direction. There's an effort to make an early intervention," Kenney said.
'Deeply concerns us'
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Tuesday that the government wants to recommit itself to dealing with "the challenge of radicalization" after CBC News revealed the names of two Canadians involved in a deadly attack in Algeria.
Baird would make no direct comment on the case Tuesday, however, repeatedly referring reporters to law enforcement officials, who have refused to provide details or answer questions about the investigation.
When asked to comment more broadly on the subject of homegrown terrorism, Baird said it is something that "deeply concerns us."
"Canada is far from the only country that has had to deal with this challenge of radicalization," Baird said on a teleconference call from Abu Dhabi following visits to Jordan and Iraq.
"I can say that our intelligence service and the RCMP have worked closely with Algerian officials. I think it goes without saying that we all want to recommit ourselves to do more to combat this real challenge as many countries in the West have."
Pressed for more details, Baird said: "It would probably be best for me to talk to my cabinet colleagues rather than speculate in the media and give my off-the-cuff suggestions while I'm travelling on the road."
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews' office referred all calls to the RCMP. A spokesman for the Mounties would say only that the "investigation into this matter continues and no further information will be given at this time."
London, Ont., connection
A special CBC News investigation has learned of the approximate ages and identities of two Canadians who died along with nearly 30 other al-Qaeda-linked militants and 37 foreign workers during a four-day standoff that began Jan. 16 at a natural gas plant.
Xristos Katsiroubas, 22, and Ali Medlej, 24, came from a comfortable middle-class neighbourhood in London, Ont., and were former high school friends in the city.
The investigation also found that as long ago as 2007, CSIS agents interviewed some family and friends of the two, who were then teenagers.
A former London friend of the two said one of their relatives called the police, complaining they were "hanging around with weirdos."
That friend said that at some point in those teenage years, Katsiroubas, who came from a Greek Orthodox family, converted to Islam.
Little is known about Ali Medlej. He appears to have gone through most of his schooling without even a mention in most of his school yearbooks.
Federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews told reporters who asked whether law enforcement officials have anything new regarding the case to talk to the RCMP, but the Mounties said they have nothing to say about it.
An RCMP disaster victim identification team was sent to Algiers to investigate following the attack.
Last month, the Mounties first said a Canadian was among those killed in the attack, but wouldn't say if the remains were discovered among the militants or the hostages.
Police later said there was a second Canadian among the bodies of the accused attackers.
Recruitment of Canadians 'quite typical'
The story of the two young men should not be viewed as all that unusual for Canada, according to a former assistant director of the Canadian spy agency, CSIS.
Ray Boisvert spoke about the case again on Tuesday and told CBC News Canadians shouldn't think the case is atypical, reiterating what he told CBC chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge on Monday.
"It's really a story that may affect our identity as Canadians," he cautioned in his interview with Mansbridge.
"Sometimes Canadians see these sort of religious-political motivations as being something that affects others, or just a small part of the community," he told CBC News on Tuesday via Skype.
"But that's not the case. This is not about Canadians or a particular group. It's about vulnerable youth, falling prey to a nasty subset of religious ideology driven through al-Qaeda narrative, being driven by a sense of adventure, a sense of purpose, a sense of meaning in their life, or perhaps following someone of influence in their life that will them to a path of violence."
When asked whether the story about young men in Canada being radicalized is typical, Boisvert said it is.
"It's quite typical. I have seen several cases over the years, affecting young people in small communities, or young people in large cities. It can be done over the internet, but the process is an individualized one."
Boisvert said these "influencers" in somebody's family life will try to "hide in the shadows."
Motivation for the young men's involvement is unclear, say those close to the investigation.
"They do seem sure that this was a perverse type of band-of-brothers pact, that these young men decided to travel together and act together," CBC's Adrienne Arsenault reported.
"Either CSIS decided that these two young men were not a threat, or they lost sight of them. There are a lot more questions to answer," she said.
CBC national affairs specialist Greg Weston said in his report that two more Canadians may have been involved. They travelled overseas with Xris Katsiroubas and Ali Medlej, but it's unclear whether they were involved in the Algeria attack or whether they are still alive.