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Assessing the terror threat in Canada

By Margaret Evans
May 16 2006

The annual CSIS Report by Jim Judd, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Services states that it is “now probable” an Islamic extremist group will try to launch an attack on Canadian soil. It’s a sobering statement, but not surprising.

“While the threat remains concentrated overseas, an attack on Canadian soil is now probable,” Mr. Judd wrote in his 2004-2005 top secret report which was delivered last November to Anne McLellan, then Liberal MP and public safety minister. A declassified copy of the report was released to the media last week.

The report summarized a security climate that had been under the direction of a Liberal government. Now that we have a Conservative government that is committed to a long term, high-profile, combat presence in Afghanistan and is nurturing a more congenial working relationship with the Bush administration, there could be justified reasons for taking Mr. Judd’s words more seriously even if some political scientists may question a direct link.

“I think the Canadian policy in Afghanistan has always been sharply distinguished between that country and Iraq,” said Alexander Moens, Professor, Political Science Faculty at Simon Fraser University. Prof. Moens teaches international relations and specializes in US foreign policy. “PM Harper’s policy is much more focused on the effect of 9/11 and on our responsibilities in Afghanistan. By September, half our military will have been in (that country).”

But does PM Harper’s conservative policy put us more at risk of a terrorist attack? Prof. Moens does not believe that it does. “…But nor does it mean that non engagement will prevent it,” he added.  

Broad-sweep policies often define foreign policy. Since taking office, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has undeniably brought greater clarity to Canada’s international policies, replacing the Liberals’ often frustratingly fuzzy directions. The Liberal’s placement of military troops in Afghanistan was the right move with the wrong budget. The Department of National Defence desperately needed more funding for equipment and training. That was corrected in Conservative finance minister Jim Flaherty’s budget two weeks ago when he committed $1.1 billion ($5.3 billion over five years) to strengthen the Canadian Forces’ defence capacity.

Just last fall, Mr. Judd spoke publicly about the dangers posed to Canada by the Iraq war. Canada has steadfastly remained out of the U.S.-led war in Iraq but the fall-out from the invasion has heightened potential security problems for a number of countries including Canada.

Appearing before a Senate committee to answer CSIS-related questions, Mr. Judd said that the main terror threat facing Canada was from radicalized Canadians motivated by the chaos in Iraq and who have joined the Iraqi insurgency. The country, now undeniably a virtual failed state, is breeding a swarm of insurgents and militants. They are motivated and have opportunities to learn new techniques and expertise in terror which they can take anywhere. It’s no coincidence that the federal budget increased funding to crack down on crime, hire one thousand more RCMP officers and federal prosecutors, strengthen border security, beef up transportation security, and better protect our financial system making security top priority.

“From my experience, you go back to the people in the military and security,” said Prof. Moens. “They are very good at being low key and very thorough at doing their job.”

On 1 May, CSIS implemented a new operational structure in response to the evolving threat environment and Canada continues to rely on a unique intelligence liaison.

“Britain, Australia, US and Canada share a specific intelligence network,” said Prof. Moens. “Between them they share (information) far more than other countries do.”

 In a dangerous world, the Harper government appears to be on the right security track.

© Copyright 2006 Chilliwack Progress