Spymaster warns foreign fighter phenomenon getting worse

Despite the political level over-hyping and using extremism as a wedge issue, the risks remain:

Authorities have multiple concerns about the “foreign-fighter” phenomenon. One is that young Canadian Muslims and new converts travelling to combat zones in Iraq and Syria are engaging in terrorism by supporting the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Those who survive and return to Canada as trained terrorist fighters present a greater danger. Authorities especially fear the longer-term cumulative effect the foreign-fighter phenomenon could have on domestic safety and security.

As well, individuals police and other authorities prevented from leaving the country for the purpose of terrorism, which is now illegal in Canada, might react violently on Canadian soil.

That was the case Oct. 20, when Martin Couture-Rouleau struck and killed Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent with a car in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que. Couture-Rouleau was one of the 90 people on the RCMP’s watchlist of radicalized, high-risk individuals. Police tried and failed to restrict his movements by seeking a court-ordered peace bond. But a Quebec prosecutor believed there was insufficient evidence to take the case before a judge.

Meanwhile, Coulombe singled out to the committee what he said are two common misconceptions about CSIS and its proposed powers under C-51:

First, giving CSIS disruption power will not take away any authority from the RCMP to launch criminal investigations and prosecutions, he said. “The bill will not make CSIS a secret police force. CSIS is not a law enforcement agency, and this bill will not change that, nor confer any law enforcement powers to the service.”

Second, the bill will not increase CSIS’s ability – or desire – to target environmentalists or other activist groups, he suggested. Under the 31-year-old CSIS Act, which remains unchanged under C-51, the definition of threats to the security of Canada excludes lawful advocacy, protest and dissent, he stressed.

However, with respect to C-51, it may be time for a Reagan (recycled Russian) quote “trust but verify” rather than reassurances from the bureaucratic level (or the political level).

To be reframed: “trust with oversight.”

 Spymaster warns foreign fighter phenomenon getting worse | Ottawa Citizen.

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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