Politics

Five Eyes agree to collect better battlefield evidence on foreign fighters: Goodale

Canada will be getting more help soon from its intelligence allies in collecting and preserving evidence to secure prosecutions of foreign fighters, says Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.

60 people suspected of engaging in extremist activities abroad have returned to Canada: report

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says Canada's Five Eyes intelligence allies have agreed to share more intelligence about foreign fighters. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Canada will be getting more help soon from its intelligence allies in collecting and preserving evidence to secure prosecutions of foreign fighters, says Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.

The issue of extremist travellers — a regular topic during Commons question period — was raised during a meeting of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance (Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) in London this week. 

Goodale has in the past pointed out the difficulties involved in prosecuting people who leave Canada to fight for terrorist organizations like ISIS "when the evidence largely comes from a battlefield that's half a world away."

"We have all agreed to work very closely together to make sure that we are in fact collecting the battlefield evidence that is available, and that we're preserving it in a form where it has the best prospect of being used successfully in a North American court proceeding," Goodale told CBC News in an interview from the U.K.

A 'step forward'

The minister said the Five Eyes allies previously had talked hypothetically about sharing evidence, but agreed to a set of principles during meetings on Monday and Tuesday.

"At this meeting it got tangible," said Goodale. "That was a step forward."

Earlier this year, the United States called on its allies fighting in Syria and Iraq to bring their foreign fighters home for prosecution. Canada has insisted it will not put its citizens at risk to heed that call.

"We have heard the request, or the suggestion, from the United States, but at this point, the fact of the matter remains that is a dangerous and dysfunctional part of the world in which we have no diplomatic presence and we are not going to put our diplomatic officers or consular officials at risk," Goodale said back in February.

According to the 2018 public terrorist threat report, published every year by Goodale's department, there are roughly 190 extremist travellers with Canadian connections abroad, while close to 60 people suspected of engaging in extremist activities abroad have returned to Canada.

A "relatively small number" of those 60 individuals returned from Turkey, Iraq or Syria, says the report.

Since 2013, three individuals have been convicted of terrorism travel offences under the Criminal Code and two people are awaiting trial.

As of Dec. 11, there were no new cases of terrorism travel offences in 2018.

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