Canada and the Emerging Terror Threat From the North

Our placid neighbor has a large and growing problem with radical Islam

This week an article in The Daily Beast ruffled feathers by noting that Canada, our placid neighbor to the north, has a large and growing problem with radical Islam. It went so far as to suggest that, despite much Trumpian commotion about a wall facing south, it’s not just the Mexican border that needs watching by American security agencies: the threat from the Great White North may be just as serious.

This claim was met with some skepticism and even derision. Canada? That’s a very nice country that most Americans think kindly of but little about. The notion that Canada—which, frankly, is a tad boring—is the source of any sort of threat to the United States sounds a bit, well, out there to most people.

Except that it happens to be entirely true. If anything, the piece in The Daily Beast, which was light on counterterrorism specifics, low-balled the extent of Islamic radicalism that has taken root in Canada in recent years. Thanks to large-scale immigration, a permissive environment that emphasizes multiculturalism over assimilation, and overwhelmed security agencies, Canada now possesses a domestic radicalism threat that Americans need to be talking about.

While this sounds shocking to us, none of it is exactly news to Canadians. Ottawa’s security agencies have repeatedly warned the public since the late 1990s that their country is a haven for dozens of terrorist groups, though they have had difficulty keeping the citizenry’s attention. Over a decade ago, a respected Canadian journalist published a detailed book that explained just how significant a terrorist haven the country had become. Yet matters continue to worsen, and last year a well-regarded Toronto think-tank published a research paper titled “Is Canada an Unofficial State Sponsor of Terrorism?”

They are quiet professionals, and behind closed doors they’ve had a good understanding of their domestic radicalism problem for years, but they’re overwhelmed and, as is increasingly the case in the United States, hamstrung by politics. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the country’s domestic intelligence agency, has fewer than 3,000 employees, and it has to cover the world’s second-biggest country on everything from terrorism to espionage to immigrant screening. CSIS is competent but far too small to handle its rapidly growing mission set.

Much the same can be said of the Communications Security Establishment Canada, which despite the mundane-sounding name is their National Security Agency, charged with conducting signals intelligence and information security. A close NSA partner for many decades, CSEC is professionally skilled but too small to meet Ottawa’s security needs, as well as restricted by laws that make any domestic operations very difficult. It’s no wonder that, in the terrorism plots disrupted in Canada in recent years, more often than not the intelligence tip-off sparking the roll-up has come from Washington, DC, not Ottawa.

All this is compounded by the fact that, per capita, Canada has enormous numbers of immigrants, many of them from regions where jihadism flourishes. There are about seven million immigrants living in Canada, and 21 percent of the country was born somewhere else, the highest rate of any G8 country. Since almost two-thirds of immigrants to Canada come from Asia (including the Middle East), it’s no surprise that the country’s Muslim population is skyrocketing. Newcomers are found overwhelmingly in cities; one-quarter of all immigrants head for just one city, Toronto, the country’s biggest, with the result that half of Toronto’s population today is foreign born. That city digested 1.1 million immigrants between 2001 and 2006 alone.

For Al-Qa’ida and the Islamic State, Canada is especially attractive because it’s so close to the United States. Jihadists are well aware that Canada takes in large numbers of refugees, and Ottawa’s benefits are generous. Moreover, newcomers can get a coveted Canadian passport rather quickly, which enables easy travel all over the world. With a Canadian passport in hand, access to America is no problem, since U.S. border enforcement isn’t eager to detain Canadians without reasonable cause, since we don’t want Canadian authorities doing the same to Americans.

As I detailed in my book Unholy Terror, LAX and hundreds of lives were saved through the diligence of a single, low ranking U.S. Customs inspector who stopped Ahmed Ressam at the border—it was a well-timed hunch, no more. Mr. Ressam and his fellow refugee-terrorists were living in Montreal, collecting welfare and committing crimes to fund their jihadism. They were in Canada legally, since they claimed they would be tortured if they were returned to Algeria. Which was true, they merely omitted to mention to Canadian refugee screeners that they would be tortured in Algeria because the security services there knew Mr. Ressam and his friends were Al-Qa’ida-linked terrorists.

CSIS failed, and they have doubtless failed many times since. It’s a numbers game, and nobody really knows how many terrorists are lurking in Canada. Politics is a big part of the problem. In addition to the generic political correctness that infects many Western countries regarding jihadism, Canada’s particular problem is that one of their big political parties has actively kept Canadian spies and cops away from known radicals for decades.

The alarming reality is that nobody really knows how many jihadists are north of our border, much less how many of them possess Canadian passports. All that can be said for certain is that if Canada’s new Liberal government gets in bed with radical Muslims like its predecessors did with radical Tamils, on grounds of political expediency, the terrorist threat to North America will rise quickly. The time to talk seriously about mitigating that risk is now.

Full article: Canada and the Emerging Terror Threat From the North (New York Observer)

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