Islamic extremists top Canadian terror threat, Easter says

Globe and Mail Update

UPDATED AT 2:49 PM EDT Thursday, Jun. 5, 2003


Ottawa — Islamic extremists are still the No. 1 security threat to Canada, Solicitor-General Wayne Easter says.

In a statement to the Commons on Thursday morning, Mr. Easter said that despite the work of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service "terrorist networks are still capable of striking" in Canada.

Noting that Osama bin Laden, head of the al-Qaeda terrorist organization, has described Canada as a target country, Mr. Easter said "Canada is threatened by terrorists and wishing it otherwise will not make it go away."

Mr. Easter also tabled the CSIS annual report, which says that 26 organizations have been designated as terrorist entities in Canada since a new Anti-Terrorism Act became law 18 months ago.

CSIS is aware of emerging terrorist "threats and tactics that could have severe consequences," Mr. Easter said.

Specifically, the threats of proliferation of chemical and biological weapons have to be taken very seriously, he said.

CSIS and other Canadian agencies, he said, are co-operating effectively with counterparts in the United States and other friendly countries despite recent policy differences over the Iraq conflict.

Canadian Alliance critic Kevin Sorenson said the government is moving at "a snail's pace" in designating terrorist groups. He contended that the 26 groups named are a meagre number in comparison to the more than 200 terrorist organizations identified by the United Nations.

The designation of a group as a terrorist organization under the act makes it a crime to materially support it, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Mr. Sorenson also called for expanding the powers of CSIS so that it could more effectively conduct covert operations abroad.

Later Thursday during Question Period, Mr. Sorenson asked that the Tamil Tigers rebel group be placed onto Canada's list of terrorist entities, citing an RCMP report from November of 2002 saying that 8,000 Tamil Tigers have been engaged in "extortion, intimidation and the smuggling of migrants" in Toronto.

"How much more evidence does this Solicitor-General need?" he asked.

Mr. Easter said the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam had been added to the United Nations list of groups whose assets can be frozen and seized in 1991.

Ottawa is continuing to monitor the situation, he said.

"This government takes very seriously terrorist issues and terrorist groups," Mr. Easter said.

He said Thursday's report shows demonstrates the effort Canada has already made to cut the financing of terrorist groups.

With a report from Allison Dunfield

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